Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
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2006-08-03 05:19
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

The first time I remember seeing my father cry was twenty-seven years ago this morning, the day after Thurman Munson died in a plane crash. The New York Times arrived and I was with my old man on the porch of our house as he scanned the headlines and began to sob. It was a sticky summer morning and I was confused. My father was a die-hard Yankee-hater. Yet there he was, crying, almost reflexively. I asked him why he was so upset. After all, he didn't even like the Yankees. He explained to me that when a person dies it is sad even if they did play for the Yankees. It was a real loss of innocence moment for me. Something was bigger than the game, bigger even than my father's distaste for the Yankees--which I thought knew no bounds. I'll never forget the image of my father--a strong man, far too distracted with his life to care about baseball much anymore--breaking down in front of me.

Later that night, we watched the pre-game ceremonies on TV. The Yankees were playing the Orioles. I recall seeing Ken Singleton, lined-up with his teammates along the third base line, bowing his head. Reggie Jackson, Munson's great rival, stood at his position in right field, crying. The yellow-tinted lights of the Yankee scoreboard displayed a photograph of Munson.

These memories flashed into my head last night just as the game was starting. I had forgotten that yesterday was the anniversary of Munson's untimely death until Bob Sheppard called for a moment of silence.

I sat in the five-dollar seats with my friend Johnny Red Sox. They were in the lower tier but the reason they were five-dollar seats is probably because nobody knew where they were sitting. We must have shifted seats a good half-a-dozen times. And so did everyone else. It was comic. Regardless of our own personal discomfort, the Yankees performed well in front of more than 54,000 sweaty New Yorkers, beating the Blue Jays 7-2. Chien-Ming Wang was brilliant, throwing eight shutout innings, good for his fifth straight win. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and the new guys, Craig Wilson and Bobby Abreu all had strong offensive games.

Jeter collected two more hits including a homer and is now batting .355. Hey Now. It is still early, but Jeter has a chance to make a run at the AL MVP, along with David Ortiz and Joe Mauer. Rodriguez had three hits--and was robbed of a fourth on a gorgeous catch by Vernon Wells in the eighth--and two RBI. He led off the sixth with a rope to left field and tried to stretch it into a double. But Rodriguez was a dead duck and slid well short of the base. Toronto's second baseman Aaron Hill recieved the throw from left field and then turned his body, placing his glove next to the bag, expecting Rodrgiuez to slide right into it. But Rodriguez was far enough away from the play to employ some quick thinking. He deftly pulled his left hand back, extended his right arm to the base and rolled over on his right side in the process. Safe.

"We were all laughing because we were all saying, 'No! No! No!' on his way to second base," Derek Jeter said.

..."You can only be out by 30 feet to make that type of slide," Rodriguez said. "I don't know how I made it."
(N.Y. Post)

It turned out to be a pivotal play in the game. Jorge Posada followed with 13th dinger of the year and the Yanks went on to score six in the inning--capped by Rodriguez's two-run single. Bobby Abreu had a single and a double and Craig Wilson added two singles himself. Derek Jeter made a wonderful over-the-shoulder catch, robbing Frankie Catalanotto of a base hit, but it was Wang who was truly Mr. Cool for the Bombers, making short work of the Blue Jays' line-up. Troy Glaus' tee-shot, line-drive homer into the black seats off of Ron Villone in the ninth (two pitches after he'd be brushed back) was the lone offensive highlight for the Jays, who are now seven-and-a-half games out of first in the East, and seven-and-a-half games out of the AL Wildcard. The Red Sox remained tied for first as they came-from-behind for the second consecutive night against the Indians.

Comments
2006-08-03 06:02:50
1.   Knuckles
Nice story Alex. I'm too young to remember Munson (being almost two when he passed), but my dad was younger than I am now and just as rabid a Yankee fan. He still goes quiet when Munson's mentioned.

Great game last night. Bats firing on all cylinders. I love when Wang gets in his groove and just rolls. He'll let a guy get on base with less than 2 outs and you can pretty much smell the double-play coming.

Arthur Rhodes : Yankees :: Fausto Carmona : Red Sox

2006-08-03 06:04:04
2.   pistolpete
OTOH, a completely infuriating win by the Red Sox from a Yankee fan's standpoint - 2 outs, no one on, and Carmona proceeds to hit 2 guys & walk a third to set up a walk-off double by Loretta.

Chaos ensued at Fenway. If the Sox ever face a team with a halfway decent bullpen, they're in trouble.

2006-08-03 06:04:25
3.   bp1
Lots of good Munson stories yesterday. I read every one. Like most who were around that day - I remember it well - riding in the front seat of my Dad's '73 Merc station wagon when the news came on the radio. I got a lump in my throat listening the Flash's interview w/ Guidry before the game. Gotta be tough on those guys still, after all these years. I half expected Bobby Murcer to choke up, but he was fine.

(sigh)

A-Rod is hot. Can we officially now ban the "A-Rod as Chuck Knoblauch" talk from all sports radio, tv talk shows, and newspapers? It was nonsense then, and it's still nonsense now when he's fielding his position as we all expect him to. He's starting to look relaxed. Maybe the Abreau thing was good for him?!? Who knows.

Boston - nothing more to say. Late inning heroics are wonderful for the fans, but that team is hurting. They failed to stomp on the Yankees neck when they were hurting. I hope the Yankees don't repay the favor, but like the captain said the other day - it doesn't matter anymore. The Yankees control their destiny now.

2006-08-03 06:18:45
4.   Dan M
Amen, bp1 (on the A-Rod front).

What's Boston's record in 1-run games? It seems that it would be very good, which is comforting, as 1-run wins are usually pure luck and tend to even out over time.

2006-08-03 06:26:32
5.   rockland fan
Great Munson story, Alex. I was in my aunt's backyard, listening to the radio when the news came on. I was 14 and he was my favorite player. My dad had died the previous summer, and my mom and I would watch the Yankees every night on channel 11. It was an awful time.

On a much happier note, Wang was wonderful last night. Wonder how much garbage we'd be hearing this morning if A-Rod had been tagged out at second?

2006-08-03 06:31:09
6.   rbj
3 Oh no, we can't ban that talk. Don't you know, once you're booed in NY, it is all over. ESPN.com still has that brilliant piece of advice from Steve Philips up on the website.
2006-08-03 06:54:24
7.   Knuckles
I think someone with half a brain in Bristol (there must be at least one of 'em) took Phillips aside and put the kibosh on the A-Rod thing, as I haven't seen any more of his loony rhetoric on BBTN of late, and his most recent chat on NESPN.com had zero Rodriguez related questions answered, though you know there had to be a handful submitted.
2006-08-03 06:56:24
8.   Sliced Bread
Yesterday I wrote that I didn't remember what I did after that sad moment I shared with my dad on the side lawn after hearing about Munson's death.

At the game last night, my friend reminded me that I broke the news to him, and the rest of the guys who were playing soccer that evening. I lived about 150 yards from our high school football field. We all lived either within walking distance, or a short bike ride from the ball fields, and we used them like we owned them.

My friend remembers he didn't believe me at first, thinking I must have been mistaken, until a couple other guys showed up bearing the same news.

He reminded me that I was 13 years old, not 11, as I wrote yesterday. He was 15, our asthmatic goalie, hardcore Yankees and Packers fan.

He remembers after everybody absorbed the news about Munson we actually tried to resume playing soccer. After about a minute, somebody kicked the ball wide of the goal, it rolled away, game over.

Upper deck last night, the guy sitting in front of me, one seat to the left, was wearing a Munson t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. His little daughter was rocking her Jeter shirt, not a pink one either. He was a beefy dude, and wore prescription sunglasses that made him appear blind by the 4th inning.

We all talked about Munson, and Posada, and cursed the name Varitek. I came up with "Varischmuck" on the spot, which earned me a chuckle from #15 in front of me.

#15 in front of me remembered the day after Munson died, when the players lined up for the National Anthem nobody stood in the catcher's position at home plate.

Narron stayed at the top of the dugout steps.

#15 in front of me, with the dark glasses, remembered the August 3 moment of silence lasted a long time.

Last night, after the sixth inning when they showed the Munson montage on the big screen we all stood and clapped. I looked around the Stadium, and dwelled for a moment, eyes fixed behind home plate.

2006-08-03 08:00:08
9.   C2Coke
Alex, great story.
8 Sliced, great story. I truly enjoyed both heartfelt pieces.

Our ace Wang surely seems like he's been here a lot longer than 1.5 years, doesn't he? He's becoming too easy to get used to.

2006-08-03 08:37:31
10.   Kevin NoMaas
I was 8 when Munson died and it was probably my first experience with death. I don't remember how I heard about it, but I do remember writing the date of his death on the back of his baseball card the day I found out.
2006-08-03 09:08:33
11.   Bama Yankee
Great stories from Alex and Sliced. I bet it was a great game to see in person.
2006-08-03 10:02:02
12.   Schteeve
If Jeter had made that slide that A-Rod made last night there would be front page stories about it on ESPN. It was one of those "presence of mind" plays that people like to think only Jeter is capable of pulling off. A really great move on Alex's part covers up a really bad decision on the front end of the play. Good damn work Alex.
2006-08-05 15:00:08
13.   The Mick 536
I was on the LIE driving to Fire Island with my soon to be ex-wife, a Boston fan, born on August 22, 1946. Tears came to my eyes. I felt feverish, heat flash and nausea. "A plane crash. He died flying a jet plane. Damn."

"You always said the guy was a jerk," she said.

Sorry, everyone. I did. And I still do. Though I shouldn't speak bad of the dead. Not sure he would have been back in 1980. Played a lot of OF in 77 and 78. Hit 20 hrs only once. Didn't contribute a whole lot in 78, one of my favorite years-6 hrs and 71 rbis. NOT a force in the post-season. And frankly, while he was the captain, he was a disruptive force on the team. He didn't stir the drink.

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