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An Early Holiday Treat
2006-12-10 07:53
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Have you ever started reading a book or watching a movie and been convinced after ten pages or ten minutes that you are going to absolutely love the book or movie in question for a long time? I remember when I first watched "The Long Goodbye" on video, I literally stopped the tape after about ten minutes and rewound it to the begining. I had to pinch myself. Is this really as good as it seems to be? I got that feeling again the other night as I finally got down to reading Arnold Hano's classic "A Day in the Bleachers." After six or seven pages, I just knew this was a book that I was going to adore. Hano was thirty-two years old when he attended Game One of the 1954 World Serious. He went to the Polo Grounds and sat in the bleachers. He didn't intend to write a book about it--oh, perhaps a magazine piece-but not a book. For the most part, baseball books weren't written for adults back in 1954, they were almost exclusively written for kids. But several weeks after the Serious, Hano had a brisk, tidy account of the game made famous by a catch (and throw) by Willie Mays.

The book is a stunt but Hano manages to pull it off with a simple, unpretenteous writing style. He is clever and funny too, but what I most respond to is the directness of his language and the sharpness of his reporting. Anyhow, I'm not nearly done with it--who knows, maybe it doesn't hold up the whole time---but so far I'm enjoying it thoroughly. (I just love it when you've heard good things about a book for years and when you finally get down to reading it, it does not disappoint.)

Here is an excerpt I thought you guys might enjoy:

...A Yankee fan is a complacent ignorant fat cat. He knows nothing about baseball except that the Yankees will win the pennant and the World Series more often than they won't and that a home run is the only gesture of any worth in the entire game. They have been fed on victory and on great dull stars such as Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, and even these men they do not appreciate. They know that DiMaggio could hit the ball often and for great distances and that he could make marvelous plays in the outfield, but they never knew that he was one of the very best baserunners in the American League.

I remember seeing DiMaggio hit a ground ball past the shortstop in an unimportant game on afternoon several years back. As the ball rolled into left-centerfield, the two outfielders converged on it. DiMaggio rounded first and as I glanced at him, something caught in my throat. He looked more like a great deer than a human, running lightly on his toes, head and neck stretched out, nostrils seemingly quivering, eyes searching for whatever it was he had to know. And then when the center fielder decided it was to be his play rather than the left fielder's, a routine play of gathering up the ball and returning it to the infield, DiMaggio made his move. He dashed--no, strode is the better word--he strode for second, long-legged and sure, and the centerfielder, in a sudden flurry of activity, a man upset because the unconventional was being done, threw in a hurry to second base, but a scant fraction of a second too late.

It was not a game-winning effort in itself--the Yankees won, 0-1--but it was symbolic of the skill of Yankee players of that time. DiMaggio had hit an ordinary single. But because it was so ordinary, the left fielder--the man moving in on the ball and toward second base at the same time--did not make the play that he should have made, and the center fielder had to cut in front of him, moving away from second base as he picked up the ball. It was just this very thing DiMaggio sensed might happen, and he was prepared to act if it did.

But the remarkable thing is that nobody cheered. Nobody. Not a single soul in the entire ball park. Oh, yes, they cheered the blow. As soon as the ball was hit they yelled, and when it rolled past the shortstop they increased the yell for now it was surely a hit. But by the time the outfielder picked up the ball, they were silent, absolutely dead silent. It was a display of mass ignorance that I have never seen equaled in a ball park. I have never gone back to the Yankee Stadium since that day.

I think some of what Hano says still holds true today, though I'm pretty sure if Jeter--or anyone else, for that matter--pulled off a move like that in the Bronx, Yankee fans would pour on the applause. Regardless, this is the kind of observation you can find all over Hano's small book, a perfect gift for the holidays.

Comments
2006-12-10 08:34:12
1.   Cliff Corcoran
A great description of DiMaggio, but an awful misrepresentation of Yankee fans (can you say small sample size?). Taking the exra base successfully always gets a huge reaction in Yankee Stadium. At least it does these days.

That said, glad to hear that book's a winner, I've long meant to pick it up. Now I will.

2006-12-10 08:49:01
2.   yankz
-I knew baseball would be my sport immediately.
-I knew I would be fascinated with DiMaggio after 10 pages of a biography I read many, many years ago.
-I knew I would like "The Office" after ten minutes.
2006-12-10 08:49:29
3.   joejoejoe
Great story about DiMaggio, Alex.
- - -
If we're telling anecdotal stories about fans...

I grew up a Yankee fan and was explaining what I loved about the Stadium to a Cub fan in Chicago. I told them how I loved how the whole crowd clapped with two strikes and a Yankee pitcher on the mound in anticipation of the strikeout. I talked about how they started doing it when Ron Guidry had one of the best seasons in history in 1978.

And the Cub fan* said of the Yankee fans, "How do they know when it's two strikes?".

*apologies to knowledgeable Cub fans, all 3 of you

2006-12-10 09:28:45
4.   Raf
I read that book several years ago, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

I thought his reasoning of why the Jints sweep wasn't as improbable as it was (his theory was that the Indians beat up on the weak teams of the league, or something like that), was reasonable at the time.

Wish he was sitting in the bleachers 9/29/57, or if he was, at least wrote a book about it.

Is it me or does it seem the Giants are the "forgotten team" among the three that played ball here during "The Era?"

2006-12-10 09:52:48
5.   Eric Enders
The first World Series game I ever went to was at Yankee Stadium (the Piazza-Clemens bat game). Sitting next to me were a guy in a suit and tie and his 10-year-old son. The father spent the entire game -- I mean literally the ENTIRE game -- talking securities business on his cell phone. Occasionally the kid would tap him on the shoulder and say "Dad, did you see that?" or "Dad, why did that happen?" Every time the father would say "Not now, I'm busy."

So I can't say I disagree with Mr. Hano on the subject of Yankee fans.

2006-12-10 10:19:10
6.   Rich
As for Yankee fans thinking the team "will win the pennant and the World Series more often than they won't," I first became aware of the Yankees in the mid-60s, and they didn't win a WS until 1977, and then didn't win another one until 1996, so even though the Yankees have won more often than other teams, each WS still feels more like a gift rather than part of any birthright.
2006-12-10 10:23:54
7.   vockins
I think Mr. Hano should have given the crowd some slack.

Chet Atkins had great advice about being a great guitar player - "Make the hard stuff look easy and the easy stuff look hard." I was born forty years too late to see Joe Dimaggio play live, but I have a hard time thinking of many players that made the hard stuff look easier than Joe Dimaggio. Hano acknowledges that a professional MLB centerfielder had been fooled by Joe D's grace on the basepaths. Why wouldn't the fans be fooled as well? If Joe D made a habit of having his cap fly off while kicking his heels up to ass every time he got a hit, I'd guess he wouldn't have been as effective getting the extra bases.

I can't count how many 450 ft ARod HRs I thought were popouts because of the guy's effortless swing. (Granted, some of them were popouts, but you get my drift.)

2006-12-10 10:30:17
8.   mehmattski
5 At least the dad and his kid were there for the entire game, rather than leaving in the seventh inning like Dodger fans.

I'm pretty sure the "ignorant" "uninterested" statement can be made about any team's fans if you're going to base broad generalizations on the observation of a few fans. Especially if an outsider has an extreme prejudice against a given team. It's a lot like how many Duke-haters visiting Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first time call the Crazies "lame," when it is clear that there isn't another fan experience like it, anywhere.

6 I grew up watching the late 80s and early 90s teams, so I feel ya there. I remember watching Andy Hawkins and Steve Balboni and wondering if my favorite team would ever play in October...

2006-12-10 11:12:50
9.   fgasparini
3 I became a baseball and Yankees fan as an adult, and I had only been to Shea and the Stadium when I went to that horrible old stadium the Padres used to play in. The place was silent. I'd assumed that clapping after two strikes was a baseball universal, like the seventh inning stretch. I didn't know the Guidry story then.

In recent years I moved to LA. The first game I saw in Anaheim, Rogers was pitching for the Rangers (this was 2002, ugh, and I figured I would root for the home team...never again). I yelled out, "C'mon, he's got nothing, he sucks!" You would have thought I shit in the bathtub. People turned around to glare at me. I know I've got a potty mouth, but "sucks"?

On the other hand, I also saw a woman get in a drunken fist fight in the Stadium bleachers and get arrested, bleeding from the nose. During the course of the altercation I was doused with beer. Bless the bleacher creatures, and I prefer the upper deck.

2006-12-10 11:17:22
10.   fgasparini
8 And you're right, it's not just a joke...when I go to Dodger stadium, people arrive in the fourth and leave after the sixth. Traffic really is terrible, but if you're going to commit to going, stay and enjoy the game.

A couple years ago I saw a game against the Snakes. It was late in the season and the Dodgers still had an outside chance at a wild card. I was sitting next to two really big fans--by which I mean they'd bought a third seat between them for fat overflow. The score was 1-0 in the late innings and the guys were rooting vocally for a shutout. I made some comment like I'd be happy with a win. They informed me that if the Dodgers didn't give up a run, the ticket stub was good for 6 free glazed at Krispy Kreme.

2006-12-10 11:53:52
11.   ToyCannon
The whole Dodger fans leave any earlier then other fans is a crock of crap. Most of the fans are transplated from other area's of the nation and if they leave early at DS then they left early wherever they came from.

9
If you want some crass fans go to a Dodger/Giant game and sit near the foul poles in the 2nd section. Sounds like you'll feel right at home.

2006-12-10 11:56:33
12.   Greg Brock
If you think Dodger fans show up in the fourth innning and leave after the sixth (7th? 8th?) inning, you either read a little too much East Coast blather or you just like playing up the stereotype for fun.

Nobody shows up for two or three innings, not even the vapid, superficial transplants of Los Angeles. Of course, we've all got scripts to read and power lunches with our agents, so it can be tough to make it to the game on time.

2006-12-10 12:05:47
13.   joejoejoe
The worst display of fan behavior* I ever saw was in the Indians-Braves '95 Series at Cleveland. I can't remember if it was game 3 (extra-innings) or game 4 (Braves 3-run lead late) but huge sections of the upper deck in Jacobs Field were empty late in the game from 'fans' getting a head start on the traffic. I hate leaving Yankees-Devil Rays games in April before the final out and these fans were at the Series and calling it an early night. Pathetic.

*drunken stupidity and violent assaults excepted

2006-12-10 14:22:59
14.   mikeplugh
I swear this is a true story.

Some time during the mid-90's championship run, I found myself in the bleachers. I used to go 2-3 times a week at one point, and got comfortable with the fans shouting gang rape threats at Griffey and Buhner and the rest of the horrific nonsense that sometimes goes on out there. Most of the time it wasn't as abusive or out of line as that, but there were times......

A Boy Scout troop from Idaho had come in to see Yankee Stadium. It was a day game, and there had to be 150 of them. They bought the affordable bleacher seats, and proceeded to split up into 2s, 3s, and 4s to find room. It was all good until the 4th or 5th inning, when the entire bleachers started absolutely ROCKING with the chant, "Boy Scouts suck!"

The two little cherubic blond kinds from Idaho sitting next to me began to sweat and look at each other. They were 10 years old or something. I told them it was okay, and not to worry, but within a half inning they had picked up and left. All of them.

It was at once funny (as a cynical and somewhat hardened NYer) and shameful (as a human being). I still smirk at the memory, but I'm actually kind of embarrassed that Yankee fans did that to little kids.

2006-12-10 15:14:26
15.   pistolpete
5 "So I can't say I disagree with Mr. Hano on the subject of Yankee fans."

Sorry, but the guy in the suit isn't a Yankees fan - he's a corporate j*ckoff whose idea of spending quality time with his son is to take him to a World Series game, get the most expensive seats in the park via a million-dollar client, and proceed to ignore everything around him.

I see at least 100 of these types in the background whenever I watch the playoffs, and my wife is a bit tired of hearing me curse them out.

2006-12-10 15:33:53
16.   nemecizer
10 That's hilarious.

I love going to the Stadium, and I will pick up this book for the holidays, but I think Yankees fans are pretty good fans. Where I sit during the season, in Section 5, all the people around me really know the game and I have learned a lot by talking to them. It's funny, it's like going to see family after a long break.

On a related note, has anyone ever written a book about hecklers? See, I like to heckle the opposite team in a creative way without too much profanity. For example, instead of saying "Hey Klesko, you fat f*ck" I would yell "Hey Klesko, is that mustard on your shirt?".

Alex, you should write a book about heckles. I need some new lines.

2006-12-10 16:24:49
17.   OldYanksFan
Forgive me Alex if I bore everyone with a story, but the story of the Clipper brought this to mind. While we have all seen many great plays, this has always stood out for me as it epitomizes a great man making a great play in the greatest game.

It was around 1967, when the Yankee team was pathetic beyond what anyone under 40 cam imagine. In '67, the Yanks managed to crawl out of the basement, and finish 9th in a 10 team league, going 72 and 90, finishing 20 games out. Whitey Ford announced his retirement, Mike Burke announced that Yankee Stadium would undergo its first major renovation at an estimated cost of $1.5 million dollars, and for St. Louis, ex-Yankee Roger Maris, who wore #9, hit his first National HR into Seat 9, located in Row 9 during a game on May 9th.

The Yanks were behind in a meaningless game. Phil Rizzuto and Bill White were doing the TV broadcast. Up to the bat comes Mickey Mantle. Mick was in and out of the lineup all year, as he was literally on his last legs. I saw a very candid TV interview with Mickey that year. He was sitting in the locker room, in his shirt, underwear and socks. Both legs were totally wrapped in ace bandages from under his socks, disappearing under his briefs. Not an inch of skin could be seen.

Mantle cames up to bat lefty, and Rizzuto comments on how deep the second baseman is playing. "Holly Cow, he's playing on the grass" Rizzuto says to White. "If he's not careful, the Mick might just drag one on him". Mickey takes a mighty swing and a miss. "The guy is playing WAY back on the grass" exclaims Rizzuto "I wouldn't put it past Mick to drag one now." Mantle takes another mighty swing for strike 2. "So much for the bunt" says White. "No" says Rizzuto, "Mickey's not afraid to bunt with 2 strikes". He's gotta be thinking about it with where the 2nd baseman is playing".

The next pitch comes in, and sure enough Mantle runs up and drags one. It's hit a bit too hard, past the pitcher, heading to the 2nd baseman. "I knew it!" screams Rizzuto. The 2nd baseman charges as Mantle is busting down the line. Watching Mantle run hard is literally painful. If those ace bandages let go, there could be sinew and gristle all over the field.

It's going to be close. The 2nd basemen picks it up, wheels, throws........... SAFE!
"Holy Cow" cries Phil! "He beat it out! It was awful close. I thought he might have been out!"

"Well..." says White, "It looked like he was out by a half a step".
"You may be right Bill", say Rizzuto. "But everyone loves the Mick... even the umpires"

That was almost 40 years ago. I'm still amazed by Rizzuto's intimate knowledge and insight into Mantle. The image of Mickey running for all he's worth is a slow motion picture burned into my memory. An old, injured Mantle killing himself to beat out a bunt, in a nothing game, in a nothing year.

I'll never forget that. It was a true moment of greatness lost to it's inconsequential nature.

The umps ain't the only ones that loved Mickey.

2006-12-10 16:42:31
18.   yankz
17 Could that be this game?

http://retrosheet.org/boxesetc/B08190NYA1967.htm

(I've gone a little retrosheet crazy lately. Turns out the Yanks lost the day I was born ;( ).

2006-12-10 16:54:57
19.   jimmywu
Great story OldYanksFan. I think I'll pick up a copy of Bleachers. Could anyone recommend another good baseball book? I read Moneyball a couple years ago over the holidays and it is nice to sit by the fire and read about baseball when it is blustery and brick outside.
2006-12-10 17:00:51
20.   kdw
17 Thank you for sharing your story. It's a great one.
2006-12-10 17:13:05
21.   yankz
19 I only read a few chapters of Birth of a Dynasty, but I loved it.

As I've said multiple times, I've always been fascinated by Joe DiMaggio, so I highly recommend Richard Ben Cramer's Joe DiMaggio: A Hero's Life.

2006-12-10 17:25:15
22.   JohnnyC
17 Nice story. Only thing is Bill White was still playing in the National League in 1967. He didn't join the WPIX broadcast team until the early '70s.
2006-12-10 17:46:20
23.   Rob S
19 I just finished Joel Sherman's book about the '96 Yanks, The Birth of a Dynasty, & can certainly recommend it. The killer to beat all, though, is Lawrence Ritter's The Glory of Their Times. In the late 60s Ritter realized that the guys who played around the turn of the century were dying off & noone had ever collected their stories. He went around & interviewed all of the guys he could find. What stories! One about Chief Bender still kills me just to think about. A truly great one.
2006-12-10 17:46:34
24.   OldYanksFan
18 DUDE! I don't know if that's the game, but my compliments for finding it! Is there anywhere to look to see if that hit was a bunt?

Man... seeing that lineup brings back memories. Seeing a 3,4,5 of Mantle, Pepitone and Tresh reminds me of a story (oh my my).

You may remember a TV game show called the 'Match Game', hosted by (I think) Gene Rayburn back then. They had a special 'Baseball' edition, where they has famous ballplayers from 2 teams.

One time, the Yankees were represented by Mantle, Pepitone and Tresh. They always asked fun and easy questions when the ball players were on. One question asked, that had been used many times before was:

"Who is the most handsome man alive"?

Typical answers in past games were Elvis, Rock Hudson, Dean Martin and a few other famous names.

Anyway, the question was asked to the Yankee team, captained by Joe Pepitone. "So" says Rayborn to Pepitone "the most handsome man alive is..."

Pepitone turns over his card and shows his answer. "JOE PEPITONE" the card says. Rayburn is laughing hysterically, along with the audience. After about a minute break to wait for the laughter to die down, Rayburn then says to Mantle, "Mickey... the most handsome man alive is...."

Mantle shows his answer. "JOE PEPITONE" his card says. Rayburn is doubled over with laughter, the audience is screaming, the camera is focused on Mickey and Tresh laughing, at which point Tresh also turns over his card.

"JOE PEPITONE" his card says.

I believe Pepitone is infamous for being acknowledged as the first baseball player to have a hair blow dryer in the locker room.

2006-12-10 17:47:52
25.   OldYanksFan
17 OK. My bad. I KNOW it was Rizzuto. Maybe Frank Messer was his partner?
2006-12-10 17:52:25
26.   Alex Belth
You guys should hear what Hano says about Dodger fans. lol.

I love "Dollar Sign on the Muscle," Kevin Kerrane's book about the world of baseball scouts. I'd bet it is out of print, but it wouldn't be too hard to find used.

You know what a good Yankee book is? "Dog Days," by Phillip Bashe. It's not literary in anyway, but it covers the years 1964-1976, years that are often glossed over in many books.

2006-12-10 17:55:56
27.   yankz
24 I checked Baseball Reference too, and I can't figure out if it was a bunt. Thanks, though :)
2006-12-10 17:59:30
28.   Raf
19 Depends, what have you read? So many books, so little time. Here are a few titles to get you going.

The Wrong Stuff
Damned Yankees
Seasons in Hell
One Strike Away
Veeck as in Wreck
The Worst Team $$ Can Buy
The Best Team $$ Can Buy
Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball
We Could Have Finished Last Without You
Can't Anyone Here Play This Game

That's all I can think of for now.

2006-12-10 18:03:10
29.   Raf
26 Doh! Forgot about "Dog Days." Lords of the Realm too. The Curse of Rocky Colavito, The Era, The Dodgers Move West, Ball Four and its sequel I'm Glad You Didn't Take it Personally.

IMO, books about bad teams are usually pretty good.

2006-12-10 18:08:01
30.   ajd
I'm pretty new here, so sorry if this book's already been discussed. There's a new one about the Shot Heard 'Round the World called The Echoing Green by Joshua Prager. It's pretty good, though Prager has an oddly verbose writing style; nevertheless, if you want a dose of old-time baseball and some good discussion of sign-stealing, it's worth a read.

My mother was a Dodgers fan back in the days when she lived in Brooklyn, and reading certain passages from the book made her recall vivid (though unwanted) memories that she hadn't thought of in years.

2006-12-10 18:18:43
31.   Sam DC
I just got Dollar Sign on the Muscle from Powells.com a few weeks ago.
2006-12-10 19:04:46
32.   rilkefan
0 - The Long Goodbye is not a good Marlowe book. There's about a page that isn't drowned in booze or sentiment or boozy sentiment. Chandler's earlier work is great, though.
2006-12-10 19:34:09
33.   alterity
32 He's talking about the movie, which is GREAT.
2006-12-11 09:07:08
34.   Jimmy Clark
I never read the Hano book but I'll check it out. It is always pathetic how Brooklyn Dodger and New York Giant fans always have to get their shots in on how "arrogant and shallow" Yankee fans are. Maybe if they had gone to Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds as often as they claimed to, their teams wouldn't have moved out west.
2006-12-11 11:34:44
35.   hoppystone
My first post to the site; enjoying the banter among all you astute and well-spoken fans!

Speaking of astute fans, through the wonders of a past job that had me traveling a lot, I happen to have seen games in every major league city (although I'm behind a few new parks over the past 5 years). And I can tell you without qualification or fear of legitimate dispute that Yankee fans are the most astute, passionate, knowledgable fans anywhere. It's not even close. Hano got it all wrong. What, we shouldn't think a WS is our birthright? What are we supposed to think?

I can also tell you that there are dopes everywhere you go, and there are probably less of them at Yankee Stadium than almost anywhere else at this point. And, most miraculously, I'm finding over the past several years that Yankee fans, while passionate, are remarkably decorous and well-behaved, compared to a lot of places. Can I get a witness on that?

I went to a game in Anaheim two years ago, Angels vs. Yanks. Sat in the lower deck in right field, and a group of about 8 extremely drunken ANGELS fans got so obnoxious and disruptive that many of us (Yankee fans notably, which made up about 1/3 of the crowd) left the section and moved further away. The escapades quickly erupted into brawls and these people were literally hauled out by city police by the 5th inning. Looked like nightly news footage of a inner city riot. I ask you: have you seen that at Y.S. anytime lately? Seems those days were gone by the mid-90's It's almost passe here now.

Regarding the passion issue, I have to mention a game I went to in Arizona, I guess in about 2000. D-Backs vs. Dodgers, Schilling vs. Kevin Brown. Now, when you walk into that stadium (the 'Bob' then), it looks more like a catering hall: ceramic tile in the walkways, sushi and salad kiosks, chandeliers visible in the private areas, etc. I really felt like I wasn't at a ballgame when I saw the dude in a tuxedo wheeling a 3-tiered pastry cart down the concourse as I was on my way to my seat.
Anyway, it was one of the greatest pitched games I've ever seen: Brown pitched a 3-hitter and gave up 2 cheap runs, Schilling a 2-hit shutout with 13 Ks. The 2-0 Arizona victory was over in 1:59. An absolute bone-chilling masterpiece.
And no one but me saw it. There were 40,000 people in the place paying NO attention to the game whatosoever, NONE of them. Too busy ordering food off the menus at their seats, waiting for the tuxedoed dude to come with their cannolis, talking about the next day of golf, etc. And yes, many left early, from a game that didn't even last 2 hours (it was 9PM local time when the game ended). I walked out of there elated from a great game, yet amazed that I was the only one who seemed to be watching it.
And I have been at many Dodger games, and yes, they do leave by the 7th. I once saw Valenzuela and Smoltz lock up in a similar pitcher's duel, no score in the 7th and about 3 hits total. We weren't 1-1/2 hours into the game. And 2/3 of the stadium actually SPLIT! (I wound up sitting on the dugout after they did, at least).
Can you even imagine that? Why go to begin with?

Hano's remarks there are impossibly dated. Yankee fans are truly the best.

2006-12-11 20:30:56
36.   weeping for brunnhilde
17 That's a beautiful story, thanks for sharing.

Mick barreling down the line on bum legs for all he's worth.

Beautiful.

The image of faded greatness recalls to mind Mattingly against Johnson in 1995.

Mattingly struck out not one, not two, but three times against Johnson, at least two (iirc) in big rbi spots.

He gave it his best shot, but past his prime, he was no match for Johnson at the peak of his.

Tragic to behold.

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