Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
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Curtains: Red Sox take Act One
2004-04-26 03:04
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

The Red Sox capped off the first leg of their reunion tour versus the Yankees by beating New York 3-2 on Saturday and 2-0 on Sunday, for a clean-sweep of the three-game series in the Bronx. Where's ya Moses now? indeed. According to the YES network, Boston has taken six of their first seven games against the Bronx Bombers since 1913. They did it in convincing fashion, with superior pitching (their bullpen allowed one hit in nine innings of work), brisk defense and timely hitting (see: Manny Ramirez).

I went to the game Saturday afternoon. Although I live in the Bronx, there isn't a clear-cut, direct route to get to the stadium from my house, so I end up taking three subway trains to get there (in all, the trip is no longer than 40 minutes). When I got to the 145th street station to catch the D train, there were smatterings of Yankee fans grouped on the platform. All of them looked like they were from out-of-town, mostly from the suburbs. Plenty of them were drinking already. The ugliness starts early.

When the D train pulled up, it was packed with more baseball fans, Yankee and Red Sox rooters alike, who all looked like they were from out of town too. Stepping onto the train was a treat. The car was alive with conversation. You could practically feel the anticipation. Instead of engaging in the banter like I usually do, I just sat back and let it wash over me. I wished that every fanbase could experience something similiar.

Of course, exiting the train and subsequently trying to navigate exiting the train station, let alone the streets, is an endeavor for suburbanities. You can feel the rush of adreneline, of xenophobic tension, as they made their way to the Bronx street above.

It was a fine day in New York. The sun was out, yet the air was still crisp and cool. As I made my way to meet my companion, I saw a Spanish teenager walking along with what I guessed was his brother, a skinny kid on cruches. The little guy couldn't have been more than eleven years old. He had a big cast on his right foot, and he was moving along as quickly as he could.

As I passed them, I said, "Now, here is a real baseball fan. Coming out the game on crutches and everything. You are the real deal, kid. That's beautiful." The older kid nodded at me. I continued, "That's a beautiful thing, and worth the trip because the Yankees are going to win." With that, I moved passed them, when I heard the young kid say, "Are you sure? Are you sure?"

I turned around and looked at him in the face for the first time. He had a great head of black hair, and big brown eyes. You should have seen this boy's face; it was all lit up. "Are you sure? Are you sure?" Of course, I wasn't sure, but looked at him and said, "Of course, I'm sure. 7-2, final. You wait and see. The Yanks'll win."

My friend Johnny Red Sox and I sat in the lower part of the upper deck in the right field. We got to our seats by a quarter past noon, so we had plenty of time to watch the Yankee players warm up. I'm not sure what happened to Eddie Layton, the long-time organist at Yankee Stadium, but he has been replaced by a guy named Ed Alstrom. We watched Kevin Brown run sprints, and then start his soft toss catch in the outfield as Alstrom played "Pretty Baby," then vamped into "You Shook Me All Night Long," before finishing with "Hot, Hot, Hot."

Like always, there were plenty of Sox fans at the game, especially in the upper deck. We saw a sweet young girl on crutches who must have been 13 or 14 wearing a Red Sox jersey, and bravely hopping down the steps to her seat with her friend and her father. Hadn't I promised that the Yankees would win to the first kid on crutches I saw? Well, what about this girl?

As luck would have it, we were in the sun all afternoon. The game was far more entertaining than Friday night's drubbing, but ultimately, it was a long, frustrating day for the Yankees and their fans. The Red Sox scored two early runs off of Kevin Brown, who despite not having his best stuff, pitched reasonably well. B. Arroyo was even better for the Sox, allowing just one hit—a solo home run to Alex Rodriguez—through six innings.

In the seventh, Yankees would tie the game at two on Gary Sheffield's RBI single, but Bernie Williams bounced into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. Manny Ramirez hit a double and scored the game-winner in the 12th off of Paul Quantrill. Alex Rodriguez made the defensive play of the game for the Yankees when he made a back-hand stop, then a strong throw to first to rob Kevin Millar of a double in the third.

When the game ended I remembered the little boy I had seen on crutches, and began to feel badly for him. I should have told him that even if the Yankees lost today that it would be okay, that they would be okay. As if I was powerful enough to have been able to pick the game in the first place. But I decided to cut myself a break, and I chose to remember the look on the boy's face. "Are you sure, are you sure?" I actually felt better knowing that the young Red Sox fan on crutches was happy, and that this would be a day she'd never forget.

Prince P

Things got even tougher for the Yanks on Sunday afternoon when Pedro Martinez was in fine form. Manny Ramirez smacked Javier Vasquez's one mistake of the afternoon—a hanging curve—for a two-run bomb, and that was all Boston would need. The Yankees had some good hacks (Giambi, Sheffield) that could have turned the game around, but all they could do was fould pitches off. Alex Rodriguez was robbed of a single by Kevin Millar in the first, then later singled and doubled to right. Rodriguez was the only Yankee to hit all weekend long. Bernie Williams went 0-4 and so did Derek Jeter. Jeter is now 0-25 and is experiencing the biggest slump of his career. He also made a throwing error. Both players look uncharacteristically uncomfortable at the plate, frequently taking pitches, and disputing calls with the home plate ump.

The Yankees' best chance to score came in the fifth when they had men on second and third with one out. Enrique Wilson, who has had success (re:luck) against Martinez, popped out, unable to get the ball out of the infield. Next, Jeter struck out looking on a back door curve that hung up in the zone. Regardless, it fooled Jeter badly. In the sixth, a pop-up down the third base line, dropped in between Hideki Matsui and Jeter for a double. It was Matsui's play to make, but the ball fell in just a few feet from Jeter, and it is rare when he doesn't make that play.

When the Yankees are winning, Jeter is usually at the center of the action. It is fitting that he is struggling the most now. The Red Sox fans at the stadium (and everywhere I presume) took great pleasure in watching Jeter stumble. The Yankee shortstop made the last out of Saturday's game. As he stepped to the plate a group of Red Sox fans chanted from the upper deck, "Je-ter sucks, Je-ter sucks." Not only that, but Yankee fans booed Jeter too.

I'd say that the Yankee fans out-numbered the Sox fans by 60-40 in the upper decks, but it was the Boston-rooters who made most of the noise. Yankee fans mostly sat on their hands, waiting for something to cheer about. It's bad enough when your team is struggling, and it's worse when you have enemy fans letting you know how badly they are struggling.

This is how it went: Yankee fans were pensive and peeved. A Red Sox chant begins, and only gets louder. Yankee fans eventually start to a counter-chant, until all you hear is a lot of sound and fury (signifying zilch). It goes, "Let's Go Red Sox," "Let's Go Yankees." Then "Yank-ees suck," "19-18." The effect is that of an infant who sticks his fingers in his ears as he's being teased, only to yell "La-la-la, I can't hear you, you stink worse."

Quite frankly, I can't find much difference between Sox and Yankee fans. If they weren't wearing different colors it would be hard to tell them apart. The only discernable difference is that Red Sox fans are whiter, preppier (though there were some Latin Sox fans too). But a lot of the Yankee mooks look just like the Red Sox mooks. They are cousins at the same dysfunctional family picnic.

There are plenty of nerdy Sox fans too. Some of them look appealing to chat with. Two such nerds sat nearby, and had the sincere pleasure of dealing with a trio of drunken Yankee fans who were sitting in the row ahead of them. One of the drunks kept repeating, "Red Sux suck," like an toddler who just heard a knock-knock joke and couldn't stop repeating it. This guy couldn't get enough ot it. "Red Sux suck." Get it? It's like he had discovered fire.

One of the Sox nerds eventually got sucked into a heated argument with the Yankee dopes. For many of fans in the upper deck—mostly men in the 18-35 age group—yelling and screaming with each other is far more important than watching the game. Call me an elitst, and a snob, but I have a hard time empathizing with this brand of rowdy, loutish behavior. I understand everyone has a right to enjoy the game in thier own way, and this kind of salty back-and-forth is to be expected, but quite frankly, after ten minutes it's boring. Worse, the kind of sadistic exchanges that make up a Yankee-Red Sox game, make attending these games an unpleasant experience.

I don't know who is worse: the Yankee fans or the Red Sox fans. I've said this before, but I they deserve each other. They are the two most self-aggrandizing, insufferable groups of fans you can find in the sport. When the Yankees beat the Sox, Yankee fans become shameless, entitled front-runners, rubbing tired slogans in the faces of the Sox fans. When the Sox beat the Yankees, Sox fans act as if the victory is a triumph of all that is moral and good, over all that is evil. Oh yeah, their slogans aren't too original either.

You'd think fans could show a degree of humility, but where fun is that, right? Especially when you consider how much booze is being consumed. Listen, Yankee fans get a good dose of their own medicine when the Sox play in New York. All over the country, no matter where the Yankees play, there is a good showing of Yankee fans, who are rarely shy about making themselves known. The only time the tables are turned is when Boston plays in town. Not even Mets fans make this kind of noise.

That's fine. I may not like hearing "Let's Go Red Sox," but who says I'm suppose to? The Sox fans have a right to cheer their team on. What does bother me is when they chant, "Yank-ees Suck," or "Je-ter Sucks." But then again, I'm not down with chanting that anyone sucks. That's just too much negative energy for me to spend. Why not be content saying, "My team is great?"

Anyhow, the Yanks have two months to think about it before they meet up with Boston again. But things do not get easier for the slumping Yankees, what with the Oakland A's coming to town this week. I'm sure everyone—especially Red Sox Nation—is eagerly awaiting George Steinbrenner's first eruption of the season. Stay tuned.

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