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How You Like Me Now?
2006-06-29 05:14
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

"Alex has gone from town to town, and there's been just resentment all over the league for him because of how much money he makes," Manager Joe Torre said before the game. "And nobody ever feels that anybody's worth this money. Like, you know, he went in there and held somebody hostage to get the money. Somebody made a choice to give it to him. And it's just something that he has to live with."
(N.Y. Times)

Yesterday started off so badly and well, just look how it ended. My girlfriend Emily would have some new-age Wayne Dyer words of wisdom for me, that's for sure. I take that malarky with a grain of salf, but often, the essence of what a guy like Dyer is saying makes a good deal of sense, the power of intentions and all that.

I had to fight up all the positive vibes I had in me when I awoke at 5:30 in the morning to the pattering sounds of raindrops against our bedroom air conditioner. The weatherman has called for rain and thunderstorms for much of the last week. When they got Monday and Tuesday's games in without a hitch, I figured Wednesday was the day that it'll all fall apart. I had taken a vacation day to go to the Stadium with a high school friend and his wife. My pal had an extra seat so I invited my cousin Eric along. But early in the morning it was pouring outside my window in the Bronx and the skies were dark. I sulked like a little boy.

Em and I had an early-morning appointment downtown. I can't stand being wet all day, so I over-dressed in order to stay dry. Put on the timberland boots, heavy cordiroy pants, a long sleeved shirt and a hoody. By the time we finished out business in downtown Manhattan, it was 9:00 a.m and the rain had stopped. I arrived at Eric's studio in the East Village by 9:30 with chocolate croissants for breakfast. When I called my boy Adam's house his wife said, "He went to work, sorry about the game today. Didn't he call you? It's pouring up her in Westchester." Awwww, man. I got Adam on the horn and we agreed to check back in at 10:30.

But by 10:15, I got him on the phone again and went into my spiel. "Dude, it's been sunny here since we spoke. They are getting this game in. Yo, the Yanks haven't done dick offensively for a week now and they need for us to be there today. Get your ass down here." He said he'd check with his old lady but would likely come down no matter what she chose to do. It was one those moments where I knew peer pressure would work to my advantage. I played baseball with Adam in high school--he still pitches in an over 30-league in fact--and I knew he wouldn't be able to live with himself if they got the game in and he didn't come through.

Eric and I had some time to kill so we walked across the street to play stickball. The court was locked up and being used as a defacto parking lot for the Police Precinct that is on the block (it used to be the exterior location for the old NYPD Blue show). Undeterred, we used the lot behind the court, where two off-duty police vehicles were parked (an officer was fast asleep in one of them). The court had several major puddles, but we quickly came up with a field. Since we couldn't use a wall as a backdrop, we found a pile of rubbish that would suffice. A sheet of metal siding became our strike zone.

Without any practice Eric says, "Let's go," and we're playing a game. It lasted two innings. I struck him out four times (two outs per inning) and I scored one run on a bases-loaded walk. Had a couple of good swings, all late. The best thing I did was foul off three pitches with a full count. I don't even remember what the result of the at bat was, but staying alive like that was rewarding.

When Eric and I got to the Bronx, there was no sign of rain and I was horribly over-dressed. Adam showed up with another kid I had played ball with in high school, Quentin Lindsey. When I played varisty during my junior year, Quentin, an 8th grader, made our team. And he was everything I'd never be--he was a real jock. He was physically, emotionally, and mentally superior to me--and just about everybody else on the team--even though he was much younger. He went on to play middle infield for Old Dominion (and made the College World Serious one year, '94 I believe) and now teaches P.E. and coaches baseball in Westchester.

It was fun to watch a game with a pair of jocks. Adam and Quentin sat behind Eric and me, they dipped skoal, predicted what pitches were coming next and often broke out into hearty, gutteral laughter, "M'wha-ha-ha." Directly in front of us a woman had a nifty little scorebook. I remembered her from the last time I had gone to the game with Adam--his old man has gotten these seats periodically for years--Games One and Two of the 2001 ALDS vs. the A's. As it turns out, she is the same lady who was featured in a New York Times article last year. Her name is Nancy Smith and she's been a season ticket holder since 1965. Wearing a wicker visor and a pastel-patterned shirt, Nancy has short hair--sandy brown with gray highlights--and glasses. She almost looks as if she could be related to Peter Gammons. Nancy's scorebook can be ordered on-line here (she's got the Fan version). I've been looking to get a nice scorebook for several years now. Getting this information, in and of itself, made the afternoon worthwhile.

Anyhow, you could not hope to sit behind a more impressive Yankee fan. Nancy's observations are sharp no matter what her personal feelings about a specific player may be. She has her favorities for sure--John Wettleland of all people is her favorite Yankee ever--but is nobodies fool. Many of the things we harp about here at Bronx Banter--from the announcers to the players to some of the manager's decisions--is stuff she is right in step with. I felt blessed getting to meet her and having the opportunity to watch a game with her as well.

As it turns out, Nancy really likes Alex Rodriguez. So did the two jocks sitting behind us. As if it were scripted, Rodriguez was the hero for the Bombers yesterday in their 4-3, 12 inning win against the Braves. John Smoltz and Chien-Ming Wang pitched efficiently and the game was decided by the bullpens. Atlanta blinked first when Smoltz's slim 2-1 lead evaporated in the bottom of the seventh when Jason G'Bombie crushed an absolute rainmaker off the facade of the upper deck in right. I think it might have been the highest homer I can ever recall seeing live. From where we were sitting on the first base side, field level, we didn't know if it was going to stay fair or not. I saw the ball go up and then it went too high, out of our vision. And it hung in the air for several seconds. Who knew what was happening? I was simply waiting to hear the crowd's reaction. Then we saw it briefly come down and glance of the upper deck.

The game remained tied in extra innings. Mariano Rivera pitched two scoreless. Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Myers got into trouble in the 11th but Scott Proctor got them off the hook. However, Proctor surrendered a solo shot to Marcus Giles--on a 3-2 pitch--in the 12th, giving the Braves a one-run lead. The Stadium, which had already begun to thin out, was deflated.

I thought the Yanks might have a chance when Jorge Sosa entered the game in the bottom of the inning. Sosa gave up a meaningless dinger to Melky Cabrera the night before. Now, he had to go through the heart of the Yankee order. Derek Jeter slapped what looked-like a sure base hit up the middle. But Edgar Renteria made his third sterling play of the game--his diving stop of a Jorge Posada line drive earlier in the game was marvelous--gloving the ball, spinning, and throwing Jeter out by plenty (I later saw the replays and Jetes gave Edgar the stink-eye but good). Giambi followed with a walk setting the stage for Rodriguez.

Lou Piniella had just arrived back in his midtown hotel room with his wife after catching a matinee. According to Bill Madden, he turned on the TV just as Giambi walked. Piniella had been at the Stadium the night before for an executive function and ran Rodriguez. The two talked about hitting, though Piniella was careful not to step on Don Mattingly's toes. Still, Lou cares deeply about Rodriguez and took some time to encourage his former player.

Sosa fell behind our man 3-1. Eric and I looked at each other and said, "This is the pitch." Our pals Adam and Quentin had left innings earlier, but Nancy was right there with us, sitting erect, leaning forward slightly. Rodriguez walloped the next pitch deep into the left field seats. We knew it immediately. The next couple of moments are a blur. Hugging and jumping. I slapped Nancy high five. I remember looking up and Rodriguez was barely around second base. Then as he neared home plate he flung his helmet into the air. The crowd was thrilled. They continued to cheer after the players disappeared into the dugout. Now this is a good time for a curtain call, I thought. But Rodriguez never re-appeared. It hardly mattered. What counted was that he got a big hit at a time when he and the team really needed one. After the Red Sox pounded Pedro Martinez and the Mets last night, winning their 11th straight, it was even more crucial.

Man, the day started off horribly. But we kept the faith and it ended wonderfully.

Comments
2006-06-29 06:38:33
1.   C2Coke
Thanks, Alex. Looks like you had a really nice time. You getting to go to the game was the envy of some (including me) here at the Banter! The game started off great, had some bad and slow moments in between, and ended wonderfully!
2006-06-29 06:41:46
2.   Alex Belth
Oh, by the way, G'Bombee is Cliff's nick name. I don't know how to really spell it but I love it.

Oh, I forgot to mention A Rod's error in extra innings. That helped set the stage for his dramatics later.

And Nancy got a chance to meet some of the players last year. She loved Rodriguez. He asked her if she ever saw DiMaggio play. She laughed recalling the moment. No, she assured him, she wasn't that old. "What about Lou Piniella," Rodriguez asked. It's natural that Rodriguez would want to know about Sweet Lou but I think it's really funny that he went from Joe D right to Lou.

2006-06-29 06:42:52
3.   Sam DC
Love these New York Stories Alex. Your readers really appreciate that you take the time to get them told.
2006-06-29 06:43:58
4.   uburoisc
I just pasted this at the tail of the other thread, but I'm still so jazzed, I'll keep on.

So I just saw my very first Yankee game, after years of TV, radio and now Internet in far-flung western towns, I finally lined up a vacation with a Yankee game and what a doozy! Wow! I nearly fell out of the 11th tier I was so worked up. I even forgot all about the kid who barfed right next to me all over the stairs. The pitching matchup was perfect, Wang was golden against an ageless Smoltz, and Mo coming in to hold the tie. Farnsworth giving me an ulcer, Andy baby! Andy hits that triple and makes a great play at first, Melky works the count after getting down (that was ballsy and tough to do in such a pressure game) and then steals second. Myers hitting a guy he is up on in the count (ouch), Jorge stopping the momentum with that clutch throw to 2nd, booing Proctor, booing Proctor some more, Villone walking a guy hitting .190 (ouch). defending Arod when the stupid fans (and the smart-ass kid behind me) started booing him after the easy-out grounder and error at 3rd. The fans streaming out early after the top of the 12th (what is with that failure of nerve?). The table set in the 12th for Arod after Giambi works the count yet again. And seeing that pitch sail over the wall. My, God what a moment! All that shit he has been eating gone as he tossed his helmet in the air. The Arod haters around me apologizing as we danced around cheering like idiots. Taunting the 4 Braves fans in front of me who actually started that insipid tomahawk chop droning in the 12th. I feel like my girl and I just saw the best game of the year (it was her first Yankee game, too). Bar-hopping afterward to vanquish the remaining nay-sayers who claim Arod just got "lucky." (Lucky was Proctor in the 11th). Go Yanks! Go Arod!

BTW Thanks again, Alex for the tips, one of the best days of my sporting life.

2006-06-29 06:46:31
5.   Knuckles
Alex, great post. Always good to catch up with old buddies, and must have been even more so during a game like that.

Can we talk hoops at all on this blog? I got some Knicks/Nets/draft thoughts that I think the BB would be a good forum for...

2006-06-29 06:47:34
6.   uburoisc
Shit, that has me dancing around the room all over again! Turn up Cachao and toast to Arod! Beer before noon today.
2006-06-29 06:51:53
7.   Shaun P
Brilliant recap, Alex. This is another of your classic pieces. I hope you enjoyed reading the comments from yesterday's game thread, especially since you knew what the ending would be like. Talk about a roller coaster!
2006-06-29 07:03:12
8.   rsmith51
My mom's name is Nancy Smith, though she is a Cubs fan. Nice recap, Alex.

John Wetteland? How long was he a Yankee? 3 years?

2006-06-29 07:32:19
9.   Alex Belth
Yeah, the Wetteland call was random. She couldn't really explain it either. She mentioned that she liked his approach to the game but other than that couldn't really tell me why he was the one more than anyone else that she loved most. Funny how things like that work, right?
2006-06-29 08:07:03
10.   bloodyank78
Alex, you have an uncanny way of making it feel like I was w/you during your experiences yesterday, great post! I don't know if anyone felt this way yesterday, but after Alex ripped his walk-off I was initially more thrilled about it for him first, and then because of the team's win. The guy needed that and I really have been pulling for him of late. I like Arod tremendously and I knew it was only a matter of time before a guy w/that much talent would silence his critics in dramatic fashion. I know it probably will only briefly silence the "what have you done for me lately" crowd, but it could mean big things for Arod mentally. A mentally strong Arod going on a month long tear could easily carry a offensively anemic line-up. Let's all hope it happens gents.
2006-06-29 08:12:39
11.   Dimelo
What a treat that was to read, Alex.

It's getting to the point that people feel sorry for ARod and are really happy he got that big hit. Let's hope this is a sign of things to come. I really hope. We need you ARod.

2006-06-29 08:29:32
12.   monkeypants
I am very happy about the results yesterday as well. However, I also did a little 'research' trying to follow up on a hunch. It seems like A-Rods HRs have all been moonshots to LF (anecdotal, memory-skewed warning), but I distinctly remember him having tremendous power to RCF in years past. I looked at his hit chart (on MLB.com), at his HRs in his home parks for the past few years, and my suspicions were confirmed.

At Yankee stadium this year, every HR he has has been to LF. In 2004, a relative 'off year' by his standards, almost every HR was to LF, except a couple of RF. But if you look at the tremendous 2005 season, the HRs are distributed more or less evenly around the park. This is even more true if you look at the HRs he hit in Texas before 2004.

I wonder if this is cause or effect? In A-Rod's 'off years', do his mechanics break down and he can't drive the ouside pitch? I wonder if the opposite field power comes back this year, or if he is slowly evolving into a stronger pull hitter (a la Giambi)?

2006-06-29 08:34:51
13.   yankaholic
12 i posted the same qn yesterday.. he made an emphasis on going the opposite way last year..

he hit lot of HRs to RF.. he has stopped doing that..

i just think pull is very natural for hitters..

and he should focus on the opp-filed thing

2006-06-29 09:15:54
14.   DarrenF
That's baseball, man. You wait and wait and wait and wait and wait for a moment just like that.

I sense that a "new generation" of Yankee fans is spoiled and impatient. They don't know what it's like to miss the playoffs. They don't know what it's like to have Righetti as a closer or to pray for Mel Hall to get a hit so the team wins 75 games instead of 74.

When I told a co-worker of mine about ARod's walkoff, he rolled his eyes and said, "About time." Hmmm. Quite the diehard.

Alex, your post proves, once again, it's not the destination, it's the journey.

2006-06-29 10:18:52
15.   Ramone
"Now this is a good time for a curtain call, I thought. But Rodriguez never re-appeared."

It wouldn't surprise me if the guy is ticked off at the fans. DarrenF makes a good point about the spoiled fans. I get embarassed when I'm at the game and people boo A-Rod.

A-Rod is far too image conscious to tell the fans to go f--- themselves but he'd be well within his rights. The irony is that people would probably appreciate him more if he did. I remember when Jack McDowell got knocked out of a game and flipped the fans off when they started to boo...immediately the boos turned to cheers.

2006-06-29 10:34:15
16.   tommyl
14 I completely agree. I hate it when people say how easy it is to be a Yankees fan. Well, I grew up in the 80s (and really too young to remember '81). They were awful and I still rooted for them. I remember in '95 just being so happy they made it (sort of how I felt about the Rangers this year). People forget that the Yankees weren't always The Yankees, and they didn't always quantify success with winning a world serious or else. Even Bernie has said, that if he came up a few years later, he would have been traded. Its sad and lot of the fans just annoy me with their booing of any mistake or shortcoming.

BTW, one of my earliest memories of being in Yankee stadium was I believe the mid 80s, and myself and a few friends (thinking we were being mature) yelling "Righetti Spaghetti!" when he pitched badly. Somehow, that chant never quite caught on.

2006-06-29 11:53:38
17.   rbj
14 Amen, DarrenF.
2006-06-29 14:06:27
18.   randym77
Thanks for the reports, Alex and uburoisc. I was going nuts watching it on TV at home. I can't imagine how crazy it must have been to be there.

That Giambi homer was odd. On TV, it looked like it wasn't going out. I thought it was going to be a fly out. So did the YES announcers.

2006-06-29 16:55:29
19.   singledd
14 As someone who started following the 'best team in Baseball' in '65, they became about the worst team by '66. It was painful years of rooting before we reached the magic .500 mark.

I saw Mantle go out. It took a few years to recover from that. I saw Munson, Murcer and White come up. There were a LOT of really thin years.

So, yeah, younger fans may be spoiled, but now, so am I. I expect to win (especially as I live in New England... Red Sox Nation).

I must say that 'watching' Yankee games along with the Alex, Cliff and the guys on this BB blog, has made the experience exponentially better. Man... I could have used you in '65!

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