Flip-floppin’ it Richardson style!

Friday, July 2, 2010–Yankees 1, Blue Jays 6 (11)

You may remember a few years ago our former Guv. Bill Richardson made his push for a presidential bid and finished a distant fourth in the early primaries. Of all the things he caught flack for, perhaps the silliest was when he declared that he was a fan of both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Learning from Bill’s mistake, I will make my own statement right up front: I am a fan of neither one nor th’other. I don’t have a “true” team in the majors, I am a hometown homer all the way.

My preferences tend towards the National League over the American League, western teams over eastern teams, and underdogs over the big boys. In other words, both the Bombers and The Nation have three strikes against them in my book¹. Nonetheless, for this particular leg of my ballpark tour, I did catch some of that residual Richardson flack. Two days apart, I went to games at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, and (for as long as I was there, at any rate,) did what I always do—root, root, root for the home team.

After seeing the home team getting pounded in Boston, dad and I hopped on a train to New York. From the train, you can’t see New England for the trees, and the only really spectacular view came as we crossed the harbor in Mystic, Connecticut. Also on that train, we met possibly the worst behaved three-year old on the planet. Fussing and crying over any and everything imaginable. Essentially, it was a three-hour long tantrum. I asked dad if I was ever that bad.
“You had your moments, but never that kind of sustained awfullness.”
“Well, still, I’m sorry.”

The attendance for the game (a Friday afternoon tilt) is listed at 45,792. And if the Yankees expect me to believe that, they might think I’m interested in buying the Brooklyn Bridge. I try to take things into account when judging the crowd at a particular game. Is the team winning, who’s the opponent, is it a day game, is it a night game, what’s the weather like? In taking these and other considerations into account, I try to get a sense of the quality of the fans. The official attendance is only part of the story. Knowledgable rooting, convivial atmosphere and energy are just as important to me.

The Cubs were on a 7-game skid, the Royals (aside from just being the Royals) were playing a Thursday day game. The Marlins were a distant 3rd place team playing another 3rd place team, in a stadium 20 miles from the team’s fan base. What I’m getting at is this: the only time I have been totally underwhelmed by the fan support in a game I was personally in attendance for was at the place where I was least expecting it–Yankee Stadium. I’d be shocked if there were more than 35,000 butts in seats, and the butts that did show up were not attached to very passionate fans. It was a beautiful day, 4th of July weekend, a division opponent and it’s the Yankees, for crying out loud.

A.J Burnett started for the Yankees, against Brett Cecil for the Jays. Both pitched well, but neither got a decision. Derek Jeter walked leading off the bottom of the first and A-Rod drove him in with a sac fly. That was it for the scoring until Joba Chamberlain gave up a run in the 8th. In the interim, by far the most entertaining thing was listening to the two guys behind us. A Yankees fan was trying to explain baseball to a visitor from Spain who wanted to see America. It’s only when you try to explain baseball to someone with no knowledge of the game do you realize just how complicated a game it is. Our visitor was trying his best, but still had a long way to go. By the middle of the tenth, he was solid on the concept of a foul ball and a double play, but the infield fly rule was still a total mystery. Aaron Hill put the game away with a bases-loaded triple in the 11th, giving the Jays a 6-1 margin, which wound up being the final.

Here’s the scorecard.

¹ That’s also why—even though I’m not a Giants fan either—I find it gratifying that a small market, NL team that happens to be the farthest west of all the cities in the Majors was the defending champion at the time I wrote this.


Foul dealings at Shea

Monday, June 25, 2007–Mets 2, Cardinals 1 (11)

In 2007, we went out to New Jersey for a family wedding. I would’ve liked to have made it another 2-ballpark trip and see both New York teams, but the schedule only worked out to see the Mets this time round. Well, I did make it a 2-ballpark trip, in a way. Knowing that I had to see the original Yankee Stadium and doubting I’d get back to the Big Apple before the new one opened, we went on a stadium tour. We were let into the Yankee clubhouse, and got to see Derek Jeter’s mailbox. At the time, because the Yankees were out of town all the players (except Jeter) had a box full of fan mail waiting for them on the chair by their locker. Jeter, on the other hand, had so much fan mail that the locker next to his was unoccupied, and filled to overflowing with boxes of letters. So, why am I writing about Yankee Stadium on a trip to see the Mets? Well, the trip wasn’t really to see the Mets as much as it was to visit family. The Yankee Stadium tour was the only “touristy” thing we did this trip, aside from the game at Shea.

Shea was half as old as that other ballpark, but from how well the two were kept up, it might as well have been the other way around. Mom had to fly back home right after the wedding, but Dad and I stayed an extra day for the game. It was the first game the Cardinals were back in New York since the amazing game 7 of the League Championship series in ’06. This game wasn’t quite as good as that game 7, and certainly wasn’t as important, but it was plenty good enough.

From our seats towards the back of the Loge level, the overhang was so low over our heads, it was like watching the game in letterbox format. It was Mike Maroth’s first start for the Cards after he was traded from the Tigers. He was opposed by Jorge Sosa. Both were excellent, allowing a single run each, and neither got a decision. The game was a 2-1 Mets victory in the 11th, with Shawn Green providing the tiebreaker on a monstrous home run. If this description seems fairly sparse (it is), that’s because there wasn’t very much by way of drama. In fact, as far as good scoring chances went, the visitors held the edge, 2-0.

Both Mets runs scored on homers leading off an inning, but they never had a runner get to third otherwise. Aside from Green’s roundtripper, Carlos Gomez also hit a homer for the home team, in the 3rd. An odd little note about both of them (and there was a lot of chatter about this on the subway going back to our hotel, too) was that not only were they both fair by only 20 or 30 feet (Gomez to left, Green to right), but both batters had hit the preceding pitch foul but at home run distance.

Meanwhile, in the 5th, The Cardinals scored their lone run with two singles, a sacrifice and RBI groundout, they then loaded up the bases (including a hit by Maroth and an intentional walk to Albert Pujols) in the 7th, but the Mets escaped the jam with a groundout to the pitcher. What I really take away from this game, though, has nothing to do with the game itself, but the atmosphere of joy around the walk-off. I got hugs from several complete strangers and the subway was packed with good cheer. The corner grocery store on Queens Avenue where dad bought his midnight ice cream (and it really was nearly midnight) was abuzz with the news of the game, and as we were leaving, dad nonchalantly let it drop that we had just come from there.We took off the next morning from La Guardia, and no sooner than I asked myself if we’d be able to see the ballpark, there it was.

Here’s the scorecard.

Rocky Mountain highlight reel

Sunday, April 29, 2007–Rockies 9, Braves 7 (11)

This was a bus-by-night operation. I went up to Denver on the overnight Greyhound, went to the game and came back on the overnight bus back. I couldn’t sleep on the bus, and because there wasn’t much to see, I wound up spending the entire trip up looking at the moon. About the time we got Las Vegas (New Mexico, that is), I felt a tickling at the back of my throat. By the time we got to Springer, I was talking to the moon. In Raton, I bought a roll of cough drops and found myself dizzy walking around.  By Colorado Springs, I was half expecting the moon to start talking back. It was just about the worst 24-hour flu I’ve ever had–I  belonged at home, in bed with a thermometer in my mouth and a cold compress on my forehead.

In Trinidad, the entire bus got a very important civics lesson. A gentleman who didn’t speak English wanted to get off the bus, not understanding that we weren’t scheduled to stop there. At first, the driver tried to explain to him that he’d have to go to Pueblo and change busses there, but then made an announcement over the PA, explaining the situation in succinct terms. “Who wants me to keep on schedule, and who wants me to turn around, let this guy off and possibly make you miss your connections?”
     “I don’t mind turning around,” I said.
     “Is that the consensus?” he asked.
     “That’s just me.” Nobody else said anything, so we turned around. Later, people who were trying to catch a connecting bus in Denver were grumbling about being late. A nice little fable about taking part in our great democratic process, two of them would have been able to outvote me.

I walked around Denver a bit in the early morning, but soon decided that if I couldn’t be in bed, I should be as inert as possible, so I went to the ballpark at 10:00 for a game that started at 1:30, and sat outside the gate. I swore I’d keep the cheering to a minimum because my throat was really bothering me. That proved to be problematic.

I know that usually when I see a team on its way to the World Series, I say that there was some sort of special buzz around the stadium. Not so here. It was April 29, and the Rox were still in single digits in the win column. In the sports section, there were suggestions from (those oh so erudite and refined) sports fans that the owners be fired, that the manager be fired, that the GM be fired, and my personal favorite: that the team change its name to the Pebbles. About a third of the announced attendance of 31,445 came dressed as empty seats, and another sixth were in Braves apparel. There was no buzz at all—until the seventh inning.

On my scorecards, I use exclamation marks to denote moments of great excitement. Usually, an outstanding defensive play or a walk off, but also occasionally a particularly high-tension strikeout or other moment when a pitcher wiggles his way out of a jam. I do not hand out exclamation marks liberally. A typical game gets one or two, and some don’t get any at all. This game has nine. Here’s the rundown:

  • 1) Chipper Jones robbed Troy Tulowitzki of a double down the line in the first (Remember that-Jones and Tulo, it comes up again). 
  • 2) In the third, Tulowitzki went deep into the hole to take a hit away from Edgar Rentaria.
  • 3, 4 & 5) In the seventh, Tulo was in the right place at the right time, snaring a sharp line drive off the bat of Chipper Jones on a hit-and-run. He then stepped on second to double off the runner there before tagging the guy coming in from first. An unassisted triple play¹, which gets three exclamation points. (Why three? Because it’s an Unassisted! Triple! Play!) That preserved the tie.
  • 6) On the other side of the stretch, Jeff Francouer got an exclamation point for hauling in what should have been an RBI double by Garret Atkins…
  • 7, 8) …and then picked up two more in the ninth with his diving, corkscrewing robbery of what would have been the game-winning hit, a little Texas-leaguer off the bat of Clint Barmes, to send the game into extra innings.
  • 9) In the eleventh came the cherry on top: one point inside the diamond representing Matt Holliday’s walk-off 2-run homer.

So much for not cheering. Because it was a 9-exclaimation-point game, and I found myself in a section with a large group of Braves fans doing their tomahawk chops, I took it as a point of pride that even though I am not a Rockies fan, I was able to drown them out on the line “Root, root, root for the ROCKIES…” In the ninth inning, a young boy in orange was having a grand time dancing in the aisles on the jumbotron. He had an even grander time in the eleventh when he was again on the big screen with the words “rally dancer” superimposed and the crowd going nuts for him.

I got home entertained, but feeling like I was gonna die. But I didn’t, and that’s what’s given me the opportunity to upload the scorecard.

¹ This is one of the rarest plays in the game. In the hundred-plus years that Major League baseball has been played, Tulowitzki’s unassisted TP was only the 13th to be turned in a regular season game, and the 14th overall.