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Bleacher Banter
2007-04-03 05:31
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

By Emma Span

It's a long subway ride from my apartment in Brooklyn to Yankee Stadium, but I usually enjoy the trip uptown. By the time you pass Grand Central, the train is packed, and almost everyone is wearing Yankee gear and talking baseball. I remember being on the 4 train a few years ago, when a young businessman casually turned to his friend and asked, "So, how many innings do you think Kevin Brown will go tonight?" At which point literally half the subway car turned around – young and old, black and white and hispanic, Christian and Jew -- and offered opinions ranging from one to four. Yesterday, I sat next to two college-age girls who rode through most of Manhattan lamenting the fact that Carl Pavano, who should be so hot, has sucked too much to crush on. (But, they agreed, it's going to be okay: Andy Pettitte is back).

In that same vein, while the view could be better, you absolutely cannot beat the Yankee Stadium bleachers for color commentary. They're a testament to the diversity of this city's residents – and, also, to their remarkable and ceaseless innovation in the field of smuggling booze past stringent security. The bleacher experience is only as good as your neighbors, though, so I lucked out yesterday when, deep in the left field side, I found myself sitting in front of Statler and Waldorf.

These two were probably in their 50s, with old-school accents, and had clearly been perfecting their routine over the course of decades. They bet one dollar on almost every inning or at-bat:

Statler: Okay, I'm up two?
Waldorf: You're up two.
Statler: I've got Wiggington to get on base here.
Waldorf: I'll take that... (pause) Okay, I've got the Yanks scoring this inning.
Statler: So I'm up one now?
Waldorf: You're up one.
Statler: I have A-Rod with the collar.

At the end of the game Statler was up three, by a score of something like 32-2, and throughout it all they kept up a constant stream of, well, banter:

Waldorf: Well, for $45 million, you can't expect them to catch EVERY ball on that side of the infield.
...
Statler: Heyyy! From shallow center… an 80-hopper to third! Nice arm, buddy.
...
Waldorf: Good thing we got that good defense at first base.
Statler: Well, who do you want playing first? "Scoop" Giambi?
...
Waldorf: They're squeezing him. Carl, they're squeezing you, big guy!

Random guy a few rows back: HEY UMP, GET OFF YOUR KNEES, YOU'RE BLOWING THE GAME!

Statler: Well, the ump probably doesn't recognize him after all this time. He doesn't know who he is.
Waldorf: That's right. The scoreboard guy had to look up how to spell his name.
(a minute later)
Waldorf: Okay, he's lost the plate.
Statler: Look at that, he's picking up right where he left off .

I don't know if they keep this up the whole season, but I certainly like to think so.

All in all it was a gray, chilly day and a sloppy game, but I would've hated to miss it. A few other notes from Opening Day:

-The A-Rod booing seems to have changed since last season. Then I thought it felt cruel at times, especially when he was really struggling; but yesterday I got the impression that the crowd was in on the ridiculousness of the entire situation. Those early boos seemed half- joking. I think it's just becoming part of the Yankee Stadium tradition – you know, head up to the Stadium, check out Monument Park, buy a hot dog, do the YMCA dance, and boo A-Rod whenever he makes an out… but not with any particular venom behind it. All bets are off if he really slumps, but I think we've reached a kind of truce. I could be wrong, though: maybe it was just the warm and fuzzy home opener feelings at work. Was anyone else at the game? What did you think?

-Brian Bruney entered the game to The Killers' alt-rock anthem "Mr. Bright Eyes". Nice. Kyle Farnsworth and his newly-shaved head, on the other hand, entered to some kind of unnerving, thrashing, ear-splitting death-metal. I couldn't make out the lyrics and have no idea who the band is, but I'm pretty sure they'd consider Metallica to be pussies.

-My section really threw itself into the "We Want Bernie" chant in the early going. It's a little embarrassing, given that New York fans are supposed to be oozing baseball knowledge out of their ears, but what the hell -- the heart wants what the heart wants.

Emma Span is now a freelance writer, apparently, and lives in Brooklyn. She blogs about New York baseball at Eephus Pitch.

Comments
2007-04-03 06:12:32
1.   Count Zero
Oh man, I love sitting next to guys like that -- good stuff. Thanks Emma!

Oh, and not to nitpick, but it's "Mr. Brightside" -- as in "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" :-)

2007-04-03 06:13:25
2.   Simone
Great commentary on opening day, Emma. Statler and Waldorf sound hilarious. I have to agree with the two college girls about Pavano. I like that Yankee fans are sentimental about their old players like Bernie.
2007-04-03 06:17:18
3.   rbj
Re: defensive firstbaseman, is Mattingly's back healed up?
2007-04-03 06:17:58
4.   Sliced Bread
Enough with the Sterling and Waldman already. Bring on Statler and Waldorf!

Good point about the booing as Cotton-Eyed Joe thing, but I think that "silly" aspect of the A-Rod bashing emerged around the All-Star break last year. It's Jr. High school bullying at its worst, the kind that even people with generally good-intentions are getting caught up in.

Here's my Giuliani'esque "scared straight" solution to the booing. Non-booers (anti-booing activists) should break out their camera-phones and snap photos of the booers in action -- to show them what they look like when they're booing.

If that's not enough disincentive to boo then non-booers should follow the booers out of the Stadium, and wait for the booers to make a mistake in their lives, or reveal themselves as less than perfect.

"What? Can't find your car, Toughguy? Here ya go... BOOOOOOOOOOO!"

"Uh-oh, looks like Mr. Booberry is a dollar short on his Metro Card. C'mere Booberry, I got a secret for ya: BOOOOOOOOOOO! ... you like that, Booberry?"

Excessive vigilanteism? Yeah, but this nonsense has to stop. Even if fans are doing it just for laughs it's a disgrace to the game, and to the city.

2007-04-03 06:33:01
5.   vockins
The Killers? Dude's got a gigantic iron cross on his forearm and he's taking the mound to The Killers? Raise the bar, big guy. You're supposed to be intimidating the opposition up there, not asking them out to the prom.

I'm waiting for someone to take the mound/batter's box to Black Flag's "Rise Above," but I'm not going to hold my breath.

2007-04-03 06:42:37
6.   Sliced Bread
I think Farnswacker's musical strategy is to mix it up, you know, to keep the hitters guessing.

One day it will be the ear-splitting death metal, the next game maybe Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair."

As in, "Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
For once she was a true love of mine..."

Sir Farnswacker moves in mysterious ways.
Looks sharp rockin' the knee-high socks this season, too.

2007-04-03 07:02:50
7.   Jen
I think you're kind of right about the booing. It's almost a Pavlovian response at this point. Once in a while I'll boo when Jeter strikes out or makes an error just to balance things out a bit.
2007-04-03 07:08:46
8.   Shawn Clap
5 Bruney should be taking the mound to "Streets Where You Live" by The Business.
2007-04-03 07:17:15
9.   SteveFlack
The one thing I remember from yesterday was when A-Rod came up for his first at bat, he got a standing ovation. Even Jeter didn't get one. The cheers quickly turned to boos when he struck out, but I genuinely get the feeling that New York wants to cheer for this guy, but they have been trained by the media that they shouldn't.

I also noticed in the 7th inning or so, they put up a text message insta-poll, asking Yankee fans who they thought player of the game should be, leaving out A-Rod, even though he was the one who between his hit and stolen base created the go-ahead run. Granted it was before he hit the insurance home run, but I still thought it was odd to leave him off the list.

Also, since this is my first post here, I just wanted to share this:

My family has an extra apartment in my grandmother's house, next door to my parents in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. After my Great Grandmother passed away, my family decided not to rent it out, and let my father move his baseball book collection up there. He's been collecting since I was born (25 years now), and once he got the space, my dad's collection of books spiraled into a giant collection of baseball photos, statues, and other ephemera. Here is a URL to a Flickr gallery with links to many, many pictures. -

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vitaminsteve/sets/72157594520324767/

-Steve!

2007-04-03 07:24:15
10.   rbj
9 Nice colletcion SteveFlack.
2007-04-03 07:48:34
11.   Bama Yankee
9 Welcome, Steve. Thanks for posting those pictures. I really like the framed print of Mo making his entrance.

One question: Shouldn't that Honus Wagner card be locked up in a safe somewhere? ;-)
Just kidding, it seems like that collection has everything else... It would make a great museum exhibit. I'd pay to get a close up look at some of that stuff.

2007-04-03 08:03:19
12.   dianagramr
I was at the game yesterday (main box, section 23). Yes, most of the crowd did want to show A-Rod some love. I think mainly because we realize that the Yanks are really fortunate to have a 3B who in a DOWN year goes .290-35-120.

A-Rod makes himself difficult to root for. He needs to stop talking to the press, and let his play do the talking.

As for other aspects of the game ....

a) The Lidle tribute was nice, though it felt a slight bit over the top given he was with the club all of two months. Still it was nice to see his widow and son throwing out the first pitch, and the crowd treated them warmly. I got a lump in my throat from that.

b) The "Bob-by Mur-cer" chant and ovation as he was shown on the video screen was the non-baseball highlight of the day for me. He looked great all things considered. (mlb.com has his pre-game press conference ... Bobby sounds great)

2007-04-03 08:13:52
13.   Josh Wilker
12 Thanks for passing on that info about Bobby Murcer, dianagramr. I'm really glad he's back in the saddle.
2007-04-03 08:15:25
14.   mehmattski
4 I think A-Rod needs to make a commercial like that.... kind of like the MasterCard commercial where Peyton Manning cheers on people who make mistakes "They're saying Moooooovers!" They could even make it the same commercial, and when the moving men drop the couch, A-Rod jumps out from behind the truck and just yells "BOOOOOOOOOOOO" "YOU SUCK! YOU GET $15 AN HOUR FOR THAT?!?"

Also A-Rod could go around taking pictures of all the shirtless men in the park, and ask probing questions to guys on the street about their personal relationships with old male friends.

2007-04-03 08:26:25
15.   C2Coke
14 That just might turn the whole thing around for good! Call Scott Bora.
2007-04-03 08:26:58
16.   Raf
5 If I had my druthers, I'd come to the mound, Lee Smith style, to the tune of "Sprach Zarathustra" :)
2007-04-03 08:28:35
17.   dianagramr
13

No problem Josh ...

Here is the mlb.com article on Murcer, with link to press conference

http://tinyurl.com/ynnmfw

2007-04-03 08:34:50
18.   Bama Yankee
14 Good idea, mehmattski.

BTW, weren't you in the NCAA Tourney Contest over at The Griddle? I ended up in 2nd place. I really couldn't have used those Dodger tickets, but getting my name on The Griddle sidebar for a year would have been sweet.

2007-04-03 08:52:58
19.   mehmattski
18 I don't want to talk about my college basketball picks. Or lack thereof. I suppose had Duke decided to play "basketball" rather than "run up and down the court not doing much" I could have won going away, with my Duke in the Elite Eight prediction. Texas A&M bowing out didn't help me either.

Congrats though. Still, A-Rod should stand over your shoulder as you look at your second place bracket and yell "BOOOOOOOOOOO!" What an unclutch NCAA tournament picker, that Bama Yankee. Trade Bama Yankee for Chone Figgins now!

2007-04-03 09:16:13
20.   Bama Yankee
19 I always thought I would get traded for a certain Phillies backup OFer. Of course, when alerted of the trade Karim would then say:
"Who is Bama Yankee?"

I understand your frustration with Duke. At least they made the tournament. Alabama started as a preseason number 5 pick and ended up getting bounced in the first round of the NIT.

2007-04-03 09:22:35
21.   standuptriple
Please please please tell me that they honored Hank Bauer yesterday.
2007-04-03 09:35:57
22.   vockins
If you haven't already read Josh Wilker's Rollie Fingers post over at Cardboard Gods, do it now.
2007-04-03 10:05:37
23.   dianagramr
21

Yes .... they honored Bauer at the same time as Bowie Kuhn, during the pre-game ceremonies.

2007-04-03 10:16:04
24.   standuptriple
23 Thanks. It sounds like they put a lot of emphasis on the Lidle tribute. Don't get me wrong, it was tragic, but there is little doubt in my mind that he was going to be with the team in '07 and I wish there were a way to spend more time honoring Bauer for his much greater contribution to the franchise. Hopefully a whole day this season will be set aside for him. This comment will probably piss some people off and call me insensitive. Look at the insensitive man.

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