"I'll never forget this day, Sept. 7, 2007," said Harlan Chamberlain. "I can't put my thoughts into words."
Maybe the reason I don't love baseball movies is because I've never fallen for male weepies like Field of Dreams or Bang the Drum Slowly. It's not that I don't get mushy in certain movies, it's just that baseball movies don't do it for me. My father, on the other hand, loved them and I could see myself, if not loving them myself as I get older, then at least appreciating what my old man saw in them and enjoying that.
My dad, who died earlier this year, was a great blubberer. Episdoes of Law and Order could get him going. He was just a natural crier, and it was easily one of his most endearing qualities. You gotta love a softy, especially old hard guys like my dad.
I couldn't help but think of the old man last night as Harlan Chamberlain watched his son Joba pitch in the big leagues for the first time. "I think he's more excited than I am," Joba said before the game. "I think he's more excited than I've ever been in my entire life."
Harlan bares a passing resemblance to my father--in the thickness of his face, in his glasses, mustache, and the couple of pens tucked into the breast pocket of his black dress shirt. My dad was a real Yankee-hater but he would have been touched by the scene captured by the YES cameras.
When Joba entered a 3-2 game in the bottom of the seventh, Harlan sat in his motorized wheelchair surrounded by family and friends. Harlan's mouth turned downward and tears began to run down the side of his face. Then his chin and bottom lip began to tremble. He couldn't stop it and it didn't look as if he wanted to. Various relatives reached in to rub his shoulder. A young girl threw her arms around his thick neck his face completely moist now.
The long fly ball that ended the seventh put a scare into everyone, and Harlan's reaction was priceless: His eyes bugged out as the rest of his face froze--no breathing. When the catch was made, Halan's mouth, still turned downward, opened and he let out a yell, as he pumped his fist. Everyone around him patted him and cheered as Harlan shook his head with relief. Finally, he rolled his eyes and sighed as if to say..."Whew." Really nice moment.
Joba pitched two scoreless innings. He wasn't great but he didn't give up a run. Then Mariano Rivera dominated the Royals in the ninth giving the Yankees a clutch, 3-2 win. Actually, it was a lucky win as much as anything else because the Yankees went 0-367 with runners on base. Check it out, it was ugly. But you can't argue about aesthetics or luck when you are in a pennant race:
"We went to the bank a lot to win that game," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We had so many guys on base. We used Farns, used Joba, used Mo. We spent a lot to get that win. It was an enormous win for us."
True. A couple of guys who can't play much better are Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, the two best everyday players on the team. Rodriguez drilled a solo homer in his first at-bat, his 49th of the year. Posada followed with a solo blast of his own two batters later. On the Rodriguez dinger, I thought there would be too much top-spin on the ball and that it would hit off the left field wall for a double. But it hit the top of the wall and skipped over for a homer. Rodriguez now has the record for dingers by a third baseman in a season (or he's at least tied the mark if you want to include Harmon Killebrew's 1969 season). He also had two singles. Bobby Abreu doubled home the winning run. The Yanks are three games ahead of the Tigers in the wildcard standings, four up on the Mariners.
Our pal Pete Abe says Harlan Chamberlain "is a piece of work":
He said he was prepared for Billy Butler's ball to go over the wall because he knows Joba is going to give up a run eventually. "Matter of time," he said.
After we got done speaking to him, Joe Torre came out of the clubhouse. Seeing Joba's dad, he walked over.
"How did my boy do for you, Joe?" the proud father asked as he shook the manager's hand.
"Pretty damn good," Torre said. "We're going to keep him."
Harlan is scheduled to travel to Yankee Stadium for the first time in his life in two weeks.