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Dem's Da Breaks
2006-03-20 10:07
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

There aren't many games I'd like to read about less than Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Already the framework for Buster Olney's book about the Yankees' most recent championship run, the game itself is probably one of the single most painful moments of my Yankee life. I'm not asking anyone to cry for me--in the middle of the night after the Diamondbacks won, restless from a lack of sleep, I was able to get some much-need perspective when I realized that the team had in fact just won the three previous titles. Brother, I thought, it could be a lot worse. Still, three outs away? With Marinao on the mound? Man, you'd have to take that everytime, right? After the eighth inning an old friend of mine--a Mets/Red Sox fan--called up and said, "Well, that's about that, huh?" I nearly broke the phone slamming it down. You never make that call, bro. Especially, after those Murphy's Law-defying games at the Stadium.

The 2001 Serious was far more difficult for me to stomach than the 2004 playoff collapse to the Red Sox. Yet the way in which they lost to Arizona was somehow fitting. Here were the Yankees getting spanked around all Series long and if it weren't for two nights of Miracles, there would never have even been a Game 7. But there was, and in the end the Yankees simply got out-Yankeed.

I know my emotions were heightened in the aftermath of 9.11, and there were a lot of people out there pulling for the Yankees (not everyone, cause you'd have been hard-pressed to find a Red Sox or Met fan not cheering for joy once the D-Backs won). In all, they played spirited ball during those playoffs, knocking off superior teams from Oakland and spoiling what could have been a truly historic season in Seattle. What's the old cliche? You can have anything you want, you just can't have everything. Well, the Yankees gave its fans and baseball fans in general an amazing run in '01--exactly what we needed. But they just couldn't do everything, they couldn't get the final three outs.

Charles Euchner's new book, "The Last Nine Innings," tells the story of baseball through the prism of Game Seven. He explores fielding (infield and, in an illuminating chapter on Steve Finley, outfield), baserunning, hitting, pitching, relief pitching, training, and managing. There are good interviews with Matt Williams and Mark Grace, Curt Schilling and surprisingly, Shane Spencer. What distinguishes Euchner's book is that it has an "insider's" feel written from an "outsider's" persepctive. While "The Last Nine Innings" refers to the events surrounding that post-season, the author sticks mainly to the nuts-and-bolts aspect of the game, both in the training room and on the field.

The results are satisfying and surprising, and the book is accesible for the novice fan while absorbing for the die-hard nut too. I had a few minor quibbles--in characterizing Bernie Williams as a guy who is over-looked, I think Euchner himself over-looks him--but I was most taken with Euchner's even-handed writing style. The prose isn't fancy, but clear and to the point. Euchner's book is balanced, fair and informative. It's well worth checking out, even for those Yankee fans who may still be licking their wounds.

You Dancing? (You Asking?)

One bit I especially liked in "The Last Nine innings" comes at the begining of Chapter Four (which will be excerpted in full later this week):

"Whenever I'm teaching younger players, what I ask is, 'Can you dance?'" Matt Williams, the Diamondbacks' veteran third baseman who came to the big leagues as a shortstop in 1987, is ruminating about the art of defensive play in the four infield positions. Williams has become a philosopher of the game as he struggles to cool down his intensity and combine his God-given athleticism with his growing knowledge of the game.

Dancing—an activity that brings together focus and relaxation, grace and quickness, initiative and cooperation—provides Williams with the concept he needs to play his position. Dancing helps him understand when and how to stay loose but also when to move quickly. Keep light on the feet like a dancer, then you can attack and parry, as the play requires.

"That's all it is—you're just dancing through the ball. When your feet stop, when your feet get lead[en], your hand gets hard, when you don't adjust to a bounce, that's when you make mistakes."

This reminded me of something that the film director John Huston once said about his cameramen (from Huston's autobiography, "An Open Book"):

I work closely with the cameraman and with the operator, the man who actually manipulates the camera. He looks through the lengs, executing what you've specified. At the end of a shot you look to him to see if he's brought it off. The camera is sometimes required to take part in a sort of a dance with the artists, and its movements timed as if they were to music, and I've noticed that most good operators have a natural sense of rhythm. They usually dance well, play drums, juggle or do something that requires good timing and balance.

When I was about 13 I met Mike Fox, an old friend of my father's who happened to be a camera operator. He would become a mentor and a role model for me, both in writing, movies, and life. I shared the Huston quote above with him in a letter from the summer of 1994. The following is his reply:

As usual, I loved the extract by John Huston. I won't bore you with eulogies, but by Christ, when that man related a story, especially with a camera, he was riveting. He is one of the few people I could listen to for hours on end without seeking to interrupt.

...As I got longer in the tooth as an operator and began to develop real self-condience, I found myself loosening up with the viewfinder when lining-up a mater-scene with actors. I'd use a fixed as opposed to a zoom lens, thus ensuring that the camera had to move, rather than simply zoom to contain the required action. And I began to find myself behaving liek an extra person in the scene. I'd stand among the actors as they rehearsed for the line-up and follow wherever the interest took me. If one actor walked over to a window or a chair, the better to address teh others, then I might follow him and pan with him as he moved again, allowing me to pick up and stop on another grouping, or perhaps a close-up. I didn't move the camera for the sake of it, but allowed the spoken drama, the actors' natural movements, or perhaps just the body-language, to draw it in or push it back. Thus, I found, one couple capture the action and reaction naturally, as it was played out, and most importantly, wihtout imposing clever-clever camerawork on the audience while their attentions were being rightly drawn to the drama. The best of this that I ever did was on Dangerous Liasons. This was because I was given a free hand, and the work is thus beautifully fluid and alive--not because of me, I emphasise, but because the actors were fluid and alive, and I had developed the self-confidence to allow the camera the freedom to add, if you like, a visual grammar to what they were doing.

This is what Huston was talking about--the dynamic frame, to put it more pedantically. His technique was alive with invention, but it never imposed itself, as Welles' work almost never failed to do. It is why Welles amounted to little more than a filmic conjuror, a grand-standing trickster, in my book. Huston, on the other hand, was uniquely talented--and I can play the drums, twirl a lariat, and juggle too.

Happy feet keep the beat.

Comments
2006-03-20 11:53:31
1.   Rob Gee
Hey Alex -

How's this: I had worked 80+ hours that week in 2001 and with little sleep because of games 4 and 5. Not having a television I was listening to the radio feed, and in the middle of the 9th I laid down in bed to fall asleep with the sweet sounds of another Serious title. I woke up about 45 mins later to my girlfriend's elbow and "I think the Yankees just lost". I sprang out of bed, in disbelief - Mariano!? - and checked the score. The most painful possible Yankee memory and I slept right through it.

2006-03-20 12:19:15
2.   rbj
I had the twelve year old Scotch out, ready to toast another title. I was about to pour out a shot (hell, Mo's on the mound with a lead, this is money in the bank) but didn't. Something told me not to.
2006-03-20 12:26:37
3.   Start Spreading the News
2 You probably didn't want to jinx it...
2006-03-20 12:35:59
4.   Alex Belth
Sleeping through it would have been the move. I was sitting alone in the dark in my apartment--as I had for virtually the entire series--at least since Games four and five. All I could hear as I muted the sound was yelps and cheers from around my Bronx apartment building from the assorted Yankee-haters. The next day, was a brutally cold November morning, and with that, baseball was finally over for the year.
2006-03-20 12:36:35
5.   Alex Belth
I wonder what other professions would attract people who can dance? Remember when Lynn Swan took ballet classes back in his heyday?
2006-03-20 13:31:32
6.   NetShrine
I'm about 90% done with Charles Euchner's book now. FWIW, I've been enjoying it a heck of a lot too. And, G7 2001 was a killer for me:

http://www.netshrine.com/2001ws.html

2006-03-20 13:49:59
7.   Shaun P
I was in my old apartment, on the phone with my Dad, when Game 7 went to hell. That was how we'd done each of the previous 4 titles - we'd talk on the phone all during the games, sometimes neither of us saying a word. Since I was always away from home during all those playoff runs, he and I never got to sit down and watch a game in the same room. Those phone calls were our way around it.

I was so upset I almost threw the phone through the TV screen. My dad did throw something, what I don't know.

Living in Boston that next cold November day - taking crap from everyone who knew I was a Yankee fan - only made it worse. I didn't read or watch anything sports-related for over a month. When the Giants lost the Super Bowl earlier that year, I thought I had known what losing the title game was. I was wrong.

Bittersweet postscript - I destroyed the field in fantasy baseball that year. Humiliated them. Something I'm very proud of, to this day, given the people I played against. However, the ace of my pitching staff was Curt Schilling. The prune on top of that otherwise happy sundae.

2006-03-20 15:40:33
8.   bobtaco
This seems like as fitting a place as any to commit this to posterity. Unfortunately for me, I am not blessed with a girlfriend who appreciates and watches baseball like Emily, Alex's girlfriend.

For months, my girlfriend had said all she wanted for her birthday was to spend a day without baseball. This was before 9/11, and I said of course I could agree to that. Well, her birthday is November 4th and after the delay in the season, and the length of the playoffs, I nervously watched as the World Series drew closer and closer to that day. By the time of Game 7, how could I go back on my word? I thought about it, but in the end, I agreed, no baseball.

She decided she wanted to spend the day at an outdoor fleamarket and then to catch a movie. Therefore I spent the day with no access to radio or television, no cheating and checking the score. The hours rolled by, and after the movie we decided to get sushi.

We entered the restuarant, and what do you know, there's a TV in the corner playing the game. We'll hey, I didn't turn it on! I didn't break my promise. So as I get my bearings and get over the shock of my good fortune, I realize young Alfonso Soriano is rounding the bases and has just put the Yankees ahead. We sit down and order and you know the rest of the story.

I still believe to this day that if we had gone out for Chinese, or burgers, or somewhere else without the game on, that the Yankees would have won...

2006-03-20 15:59:26
9.   walein
I was with my brothers and a friend. We were standing, sick to our stomachs. Friends calle and we didn't talk much, mostly just "Let's talk later"
I didn't have any epiphanies that night about being lucky, I said alot of that "Well, you can't win them all..." but I didn't fele that way.
4 years of therapy down the tubes! Thanks for nothing Alex!
2006-03-20 16:17:40
10.   Stevenalpert
The Yankees have suffered quite a few Game 7 losses (in fact, I think they have a losing record in Game 7's overall--especially if you include decisive playoff Game 5's). Yeah I know Rivera had never really let us down before and I know it seemed like money in the bank--but I was able to get over it. But the horror of losing to the Red Sox in 2004 did far permanent damage to my psyche. I hate the Red Sox even more than I love the Yankees. For them to have beaten us at all would have wrecked me. For them to have won a Game 7 wrecked me double. And that they came back from 0-3 in the series, and that had never happened before in any major sport (I like hockey but let's not call that major) . . . well i may never recover.
2006-03-20 17:03:51
11.   mikeplugh
Before I tell my story, I have to say, "You never make that call, bro." Man, can I relate to that. I'm a hothead when the Yankees lose to the Red Sox or in any important game. Things are okay if I can stew in my own juices for a little while and gain perspective. But, don't make that call, bro.

I had just moved from Brooklyn to the Bronx with my girlfriend on September 10th, 2001. The next day all Hell broke loose. After things settled down just a bit, my attention turned back to the Yankees, mainly as a source of normalcy. The Bombers win the Series and everything will be okay, right?

My girlfriend was from Japan and had only just started to get into the Yankees that Summer. I took her to see Ichiro play at Yankee Stadium and she fell in love with Derek Jeter (bastard!). She watched the Series with me in 2001, and I remember watching Soriano's ALCS Game 4 home run in a little bar next to the 238th Station. She used to come home late from grad school and I picked her up. We ran inside to see her countryman, Kaz Sasaki give up the walk off shot to "Little Big Man". We later watched Mariano's collapse in stunned silence in our apartment.

Now that girlfriend is my wife, and we live in Japan. I still get that gut wrenching feeling whenever the Yankees lose the big game...Hell, whenever they lose.....but it's worth it if they can keep up the fight and get back again this year. I feel a sense of nostalgia about those days, which is not good. It means they are in the past. I want the title this year, more than I have in a very long time. This year should mean a lot too.

2006-03-20 17:16:34
12.   mikeplugh
BTW...as a former cameraman myself, I can relate to the dancing metaphor. I can't say I was ever a great cameraman, so as not to even attempt to put myself in the same conversation as Mike Fox or anyone related to John Huston, but I was a very good young camera operator.

The part I relate to most about the dancing metaphor is the notion that you have to be so aware of everything that's happening with your body to succeed. Anyone can pick up a camcorder and aim it, but to make precise movements on something the size of a coin, so the audience isn't aware of the camera..that takes a bit of doing.

You have to control your breathing. You have to position your hips and feet in the right way. You have to move your arms with subtle strength to engage the equipment, but not totally dominate it. But, for me, the most important quality a great camera operator should have is a sixth sense about the environment around him or her. The best camera operators know what's happening in their peripheral vision, and behind them. They can aniticipate something like the wind which will affect their concentration or their camera move. It's physical dancing, and a real partnership with the equipment, but is as much psychological and sppiritual dancing as well for those who master their craft.

I went on to be a producer, and now I'm a teacher, so you can see that I wasn't ever Fred Astaire....but I miss the waltz....

2006-03-20 17:17:22
13.   Cliff Corcoran
I don't know, I wasn't especially traumatized by that Game 7 loss. I actually have some great memories of that Series as Becky and I spent the middle of it in Cooperstown, going to the Hall of Fame and memorabilia shops during the day and watching the games at night in a bed and breakfast suite I was told was where Bobby Murcer would stay when he was in town. The two comebacks against Kim were tremendous and, honestly, if I had a choice of an boring Series win or the way things actually went with those comebacks and the Game 7 loss, I'd take the latter.

For Game 7, Beck and I were back home in New Jersey watching on the couch. The game was so close that I was still coming to grips with the fact that the Yankees were about to win their fourth in a row (!) when things started to unravel. I watched sort of stonefaced and as soon as the loss sunk in I flipped off the TV and did my best to change the subject. That's how I react to these sorts of things. I burn deep inside a bit, but cope by remembering that it ultimately doesn't effect me. Besides at that point four in a row was just being greedy. From '95 to '01 Yankee fans were treated to more great baseball than most teams fans get in a lifetime.

2006-03-20 17:19:14
14.   mikeplugh
Nice post Cliff.
2006-03-20 17:28:04
15.   rbj
Nice post re: camera work mikeplugh. It sounds very AiKiDo-esque.
2006-03-20 17:39:52
16.   unpopster
Like it did for a lot of us here living in NYC, 9/11 had a very strong and lasting effect on me. I lived in Manhattan during that period and as fate had it, I was in the hospital on 9/11 visiting my dad when all hell broke loose. I had the unfortunate opportunity to witness the whole hospital staff scramble and ready their ER, only to have not one single person brought it...

Anyway, like Cliff, I wasn't necessarily traumatized by the Game 7 loss because I truly think that I was still walking around in numbness for a few months. Sure, I was excited that the Yanks were on the verge of a 4-peat, but as Gonzo's blooper was floating over Jeter's head into left-center, I just calmly clicked off the TV and said to my girlfirend: "Well, that's that!"

I mean, I just couldn't rationalize to myself getting too upset about a game, even if it was a Game that had taken my mind off of the world for a few weeks.

To this day, the lasting memories of the 2001 WS are the twin 9th inning homers off of Kim. For me, that WS ended after Game 5.

2006-03-20 20:38:04
17.   Paul in Boston
From a pure baseball heartbreak standpoint, I was much more traumatized by 1995 Game 5 than 2001 Game 7. But my overall state of mind in 2001 after 9/11 was pretty fragile, and I admit that I've replayed Rivera's throw into center field many many times since. So for overall gut-wrenching pain, I'd rank the post-season losses as follows:

1) 1995 -- still the worst ...
2) 2001 -- very painful, hey Olney wrote a book about it!
3) 2004 -- more annoyed with the 12 months that followed than the actual games
4) 1997 -- I was sure we were better than Cleveland, still am (for the record, Rivera's first post-season failure, not 2001)
5) 2002 -- Wells couldn't get a single Angel out ...
6) 2005 -- If Crosby and Shef don't collide, arghhh, don't ge me started ...
7) 2003 -- With Weaver on the mound, did we have a chance? Torre's worst managing by far ...

And who says the Yankees always win? Remember 1965-74 and 1982-1993 ...

2006-03-20 20:42:10
18.   Ravenscar
2001 from a Mets fan perspective:

I can honestly say that for the only time in my life (past the age of 7 in 1977) as Game 7 was closing, I was actually rooting for the Yankees to win. Those of us who lived in Manhattan for 9/11 have been dealing with it every goddamn day in the press ever since it seems, so I truly hate to bring it up now... but I'm sure the softening of my heart for the hated Bombers had something to do with the events. I mean, it just wasn't possible for it to be any other way. I did feel - and told no one at all - that the city could have used a winn from the pinstripes. Although of course the city simply survived - it always does.

I could really be wrong (I'm all SENSITIVE and stuff) but I think you would be hard pressed to find a Mets fan in the city at least who's heart wasn't slightly for the the baseball brothers they hated across the river. Even if they'd rather swallow their tongues than admit it.

(An aside - I do feel that the relief effort being manned by Bobby Valentine and SuperJoe out of Shea, and the sweep of the Braves as the first return of baseball, and the home run by Mike Piazza that shook Queens showed where the heart - if not the pennant race - of baseball in the city was in that period.)

I even made up what I considered a very very good reason for Mo having the incredibly out-of-character error and hit-giving-upping. Watching the self-immolation of poor Byung-Hyun Kim, Rivera - the preacher, the warm-hearted pillar - maybe decided in some deep deep sub-conscious place that he simply could not let a young Korean feel so much pain of failure and ruin his career when he himself already had 4 rings. He ended up sacrificing his own additional bit of history for the good of Kim. And I mean all this as a compliment to Rivera, sincerely. To me, nothing else made sense, and I quietly admired him for my vaguely fabricated reasoning.

So, well, you guys got a true pass in 2001. Every Tony Womack and Jaret Wright Carlos Beltran and empty October since then leaves me giggling and tormenting my Yankee fans with glee, however.

But I am sorry for you guys for that year. And for the whole thing getting recorded by Olney instead of Angell. That's true pain.

2006-03-20 21:17:53
19.   Zack
I'd have to agree with Paul, 1995 was scaring for me. I was on the verge of tears, mostly because I felt like I had only known defeat as a young Yanks fan and now, when so close, it was snatched away by those obnoxious Mariners...I remember storming out of the room and slamming my door and just listening to loud grunge for a long time...ahhh

As for 2001, I was sitting there, alone, watchng the game at my house in college while my 4 other housemates pretended that there was no such thing as baseball, since this was in New England. As soon as the Yanks lost, of course, the phones light up, and everyone in the entire town seems to suddenly remember that I'm a Yankee fan and start harassing me. Of course I just pointed out the fact that the Sox didn't even make it, but that didn't really matter. I sat there staring in disbelief for awhile, and then sucked it up and prepared for the next day of torment, fully planning on wearing my Jeter shirt with pride. Of course, I also found out the next day my family cat died...not a good weekend really...

In 2004 I was out here on the west coast so it was dulled somewhat, so I can't say it really compares to the other two loses, but 1995 still stands out to me as the first true pain...

2006-03-20 21:44:49
20.   brockdc
'95 game 5 against Seattle was tough to take, for the simple reason that it was Donnie's last hurrah. Other than that, I was just satisfied that they even made the playoffs after that horrendous dry spell.

'01 game 7 was, for me, the most devastating. It was more painful because the Yanks were the inferior team, all throughout the playoffs that year, scratching and clawing just to get to that point. Compound that with the emotions of 9/11 and I was on the verge of tears after Gonzo hit that flare.

'04 Game 7 was just flat-out obnoxious. I recall being irritated by every little thing during that game - from Javy Vasquez's quizzical countenance, to the Yanks seemingly swinging away at every first pitch, to Johnny Damon's hair flow as he rounded the bases.

I am a fiercely tense Yankee fan and cannot talk or mingle with others during a pivotal game. I am insufferable company during playoff games.

2006-03-21 08:59:17
21.   pistolpete
>>I am insufferable company during playoff games.

Same here. My wife has learned (the hard way, sadly) NOT to talk to me during 'bad' moments of important games. '01 was more of a despondent resignation for me, as I simply turned off the TV before I ever saw the winning run cross the plate.

'04 was a tumultuous season - I actually recall spraining my foot from kicking a computer chair during the extra-inning marathon in July of that year. I still hear about that one at family get-togethers. I turned off the game once again before the ending had been realized. I went to bed, hoping against hope that some 'Yankees magic' would make an appearance while I slept. 'Twas not to be.

I say we form a support group for the Yankees fan wives & g/fs - otherwise known as 'baseball widows'...

2006-03-21 09:02:30
22.   pistolpete
I was referring to the '04 ALCS Game 7 that I turned off, btw...
2006-03-21 11:12:33
23.   susan mullen
Sorry, I'm not going to support the Boston media/baseball writers monopoly & their way
of slanting things.For example, I often hear the reference to giving the ball to Mariano with the last 3 outs, which is not true. He was asked to get 6 outs, as was often the case. In the 8th inning, he struck out Gonzalez, Williams, Finley singled, & he struck out Bautista. If you really want a story,
look at the entire 2001 post season & what
Mariano Rivera was up against. I have audio tapes of Sterling & Kay doing game 3 and 5 in
Oakland, which was only the ALDS. The Yankees could not hit. I realize that some are members of the baseball writers
group of comrades, which is fine if that's
what you do. But their is rampant misrepresentation of Mariano Rivera's contributions because no one speaks up.
2006-03-21 13:47:21
24.   The Mick 536
As an 8-year-old, I could only cry at the end of the Podres win in game 7 in 1955. Larsen's no-no and the win in 1956 set me straight. Then we lost in 57 and won in 58. We didn't make it in 59, the hated Dodgers did.

Then came 1960. We returned against a team that spent most of the 50's in or near the basement. And we lost. Nothing will ever eliminate or top the feeling or lack of feeling I felt following the Maz homer. Everytime I see Yogi watching the ball go over the wall, my stomach cramps.

In 2001, the entire inning tore me apart starting with Grace's single to center, Mo's error.... Hell, you know the script. By the end, that single to center, if you want to call it that, I was ready. A string of expletives purged me. I can repeat them.

But I'll read the book.

2006-03-21 17:50:12
25.   YankeeAbby
>

Well put unpopster! Sure, I fully admit that I also would have loved to see the Yanks win the 4th in a row. But looking at the grand scheme of things during that time, for me, the games...all of them, was a tremendous emotional release.

Recently, I sunk some money into buying the DVD "Nine Innings from Ground Zero" and will pop that in from time to time just relive those games over and over. After the footage of the D-Backs celebrating on the field, I found a particular remark from Curt Schilling very interesting and it was a classy thing to say which kind of summed up my feelings about those games:

"They HAD to win those three games at Yankee Stadium...for it to be right"

So regardless of the outcome, it's true, in my humble opinion. They, both teams - provided for one of the most exciting World Series I've ever watched.

2006-03-24 13:02:04
26.   Bookworm
I cried when the Yankees lost. I couldn't believe it. I'd felt a bit as if it was their destiny to win, after September 11th. I think the stunned sadness I felt was also because once the Series was over, I didn't have that to distract me anymore.

I thought Buster Olney's book was well done. Game 7 was certainly the focal point of the book, but he also did a nice job of showing how and why many of the key people came to be there with those teams, on that night. My favorite trivia factoid from the book? That the strip of dirt running from the mound to home plate (which slowed down Miller's bunt so Rivera couldn't field it as quickly) was something suggested by former Yankees' manager Buck Showalter when the field was being built.

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