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'suntimely 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 Jays7-2. 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."
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.