Aquarian Weekly 11/22/00
LAST EXIT TO QUEENS
Subway Series Memoir Part II – (read part I)
And so the crazed and frenzied follow this mess over bridges and under tunnels, digesting hype-job articles about the Mets being wimps and the Yankees stomping their psyches, and broadcasters calling for a full-scale war. This is the atmosphere for the third game of this Subway Series, pulling into the parking lot of Shea Stadium and the circus maximus provided by every radio station in the tri-state area. Unlike the grandeur of Yankee Stadium, this is an edifice built on the fumes of 1950s’ affluence and 1960s’ swirl, the place where the Beatles played and Joe Willie Namath used football sidelines for a fashion show. This is the home of miracles and strange happenings in post-season affairs. This is where the Yankees aim to continue an unfathomable 14-game World Series winning streak.
Teams that win 14 consecutive games in June are hailed as something of a juggernaut. In October it is ridiculous. And as the media throng descends on this orange and blue building, and the fans pour in carrying hundreds of placards screaming, “BELIEVE”, many think this could be another Yankees Fall Classic sweep. Tim McCarver, Fox analyst sent packing by the Mets and onto the Yanks to dissect the bunt forty ways to Sunday, was standing at a urinal in the Stadium Press box Saturday night bemoaning the Mets verve. “This is the World Series for crying out loud,” he whined. “You think these guys could run out a ground ball?”
Believing is good, but made better when Orlando Hernandez is considered “due for a loss”. The Yankees Cuban defector ace is 8-0 in October games. But the Mets are loose and play games with each other’s motivation before the first pitch, hanging with N’Sync who appear more like lost boys from the Con Ed bus trip than a pop group. One kid with blonde, curly hair asks me where the exit is and I cannot help but lead while asking him politely to sing the national anthem better than Billy Joel. “What?” he says, mouth agape. “Just do it,” I order.
N’Sync found the exit, kicked ass on the hardest melody to negotiate through a public address speaker, and by the eighth inning the Mets were tired of stumbling and threw up a two spot to take a 4-2 lead into the ninth that, this time, would not be relinquished. World Series win-streak halted, El Duque defeated. Strange happenings for road teams in October and life in this series.
Wednesday night there is an air that all had been tossed into some cauldron of doubt and pressure. Now we have a contest, a meaning to this push-and-shove, but there is an old adage that a series cannot be considered competitive until the road team gets one. That is what the eyes of Yankees wonder boy, Derek Jeter says. He tells us that he is lucky to be with a team that provides him three rings in four years. “The problem with other teams is that they don’t have this kid,” NY Times, stalwart, Dave Anderson tells me. He is one of only a handful of reporters here to actually cover a Subway Series. “Jeter is one of the best players I’ve ever seen in any sport,” he smiles.
The optimistic air of Shea and the cheering and the believing takes a hit when Jeter deposits the first pitch of game 4 into the left-field pavilion. By the fifth, the Yanks hold a 3-2 lead and Torre goes to the bullpen for David Cone. The once proud starter, relentlessly pummeled throughout the season, is asked to get one out, Mike Piazza, the Mets catcher and recent controversy tornado. Piazza had homered previously. Cone pops him up. Through the next four innings both teams threaten, but the Yankees win.
The mood changes immediately.
The next night, what would turn out to be the final game of the long-awaited Subway Series, goes on without me. I am physically and mentally ill. Constant parades of meaningless sound bites and media cramming, along with rapacious Woodstock-like merchandising, has rendered me unable to attend what becomes a coronation of a team that everyone with half an inkling about this game knew was going to find a way to win the last game of the year.
So from the comfort of my couch, and not those lame auxiliary media seats five hundred feet above home plate with the biting winds creasing the back of my head, I watch Al Leiter and Andy Pettitte chase the echoes of Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax. Both are brilliant from the start and pitch their hearts out, but Leiter leaves a hard-luck loser. The Yanks scratch a two-run lead in the ninth with another string of two-out hits and walks, and when that Piazza guy drives a ball to the fence and it nestles into Bernie Williams’ glove the historical becomes history.
Since 1995 the core of this Yankees team has battled for championships, winning four. Along the way they have broken records, set impossible standards, and overcome every obstacle from disease, addiction, age and pressure. Still, facing the Subway Series with nothing more to gain, but much to lose, may have been their greatest challenge. Veteran’s Paul O’Neil and Tino Martinez hit, Martiano Rivera pitches, and Derek Jeter is Derek Jeter.
There is no way the Yankees could lose this one and make it feel alright. The Mets can speak of “close games” and “almosts”, they were pushing an envelope unopened. But when you win, like this Yankees team wins, you are expected to keep winning. This is especially true in New York where silly slogans and happy tunes are suddenly replaced by yesterday’s news for the “once golden.” From spring training to champagne pouring, it is always win or nothing for the New York Yankees, the boys of autumn.
Tough chore. Tought team.
Maybe the best in three or four generations, or a Subway Series ago.
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