Monday, May 07, 2007

Bombed in the Bronx

Just as I did with Madison Square Garden, I made a point to get to Yankee Stadium this season because I live in New York. A weekend series against my Seattle Mariners was a perfect excuse. After the game Friday night (a 15-11 Seattle win that I did not attend) I was thinking there could be 100 runs scored in the 4-game series, with the problems the Yankees had been having with their rotation and the Mariners lack of good pitching in general with Felix Hernandez on the DL. Boy was I wrong.

Saturday started off with a nice little reunion on the roof of a parking garage with a few of my friends, as we enjoyed some beers and sunrays. With Jeff Weaver pitching for Seattle, I made a couple bets that the Yankees would hit a first inning home run. Keep in mind, Weaver was entering the game 0-4 with an ERA over 18. We found our seats and settled in with an $8 beer to enjoy America’s pastime.

Surprisingly, Jeff Weaver didn’t get shelled in the first inning as I had expected. Or the second. Or the third. In fact, it took until the sixth inning for Weaver to let the game get away. You know it’s bad when you go five and two thirds of an inning and give up six runs, and your ERA actually goes down.

On the other side of the ball, it was a completely different game. Chien-Ming Wang had been perfect. No hits, no walks, even aided by a couple great defensive plays by A-Rod. At this point, I became a very annoying person to all the Yankee fans in our section, continually asking out loud, “Is it bad that I’m talking about this being a perfect game? Am I going to jinx it?” Sure enough, in the eighth inning the Mariners finally got to Wang as Ben Broussard pulled a misplaced changeup over the fences in right. Perfect game, huh? Almost made it.

I returned to the Bronx on Sunday, two glorious days in a row to watch a baseball game. It wasn’t quite like watching a perfect game unfold, but it was fun nonetheless. In the fifth, as Yankees first baseman Josh Phelps scored New York’s first run, he went out of his way to railroad Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima, even though Kenji had left home plate wide open for him to slide through because he knew the throw from Ichiro would be late. The following inning, as Phelps came to the plate, Jarrod Washburn plunked him in the back in retaliation. Because it was Yankee Stadium and not Safeco Field, the fans didn’t even realize that Phelps had made a dirty play and this retaliation was inevitable. So when Scott Proctor threw at Yuniesky Betancourt’s head in the seventh inning and got tossed, the benches cleared and the crowd came to life. Comments like “David Justice wouldn’t have let this happen” and “Where’s Paul O’Neill when you need him” poured on much to my amusement. Unfortunately for us, no brawl ensued, but it sure would’ve been fun to watch A-Rod get pummeled by Richie Sexson and Ichiro have a kung-fu battle with Kei Igawa.

Even though I saw the Mariners gather only six hits and one run in the two games I attended, my trips to Yankee Stadium were great. I saw a nearly perfect game, a near brawl, and Roger Clemens announce that he is returning to the Yankees. It truly is a wonderful ballpark, and it’s a shame it is being torn down. I’m sure the new stadium will be great, and I hear they are keeping all the same dimensions, but there’s something about the history of a ballpark that I love, like at Fenway Park, that I never had in Seattle. The Kingdome wasn’t a historical ballpark, and as beautiful as Safeco Field is, it doesn’t have that same feeling as Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. So I’m glad that I got to see some baseball in one of the game’s historical playgrounds before it is gone forever.

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