Me mother, God be good to her, used to say that rooting for the New York Yankees “is like rooting for U.S. Steel.” Back then we had no idea what she meant, except that somehow it involved steel. It seemed odd coming from a woman who never forgave her beloved Dodgers for leaving Brooklyn and so did the unthinkable and joined the Yankee camp. Eventually we divined her meaning, that in some circles the Bronx Bombers are considered the sporting equivalent of a giant, heartless, win-at-all-costs corporation.
That is as it should be. Why? For varying reasons and in varying degrees, baseball has long been a source of frustration for me. At this point in my life, I’ve frustrations enough, such as: Is that guy ahead of mwe on the deli line going to order a quarter-pound of everything? My peace of mind requires the Yankees to end the season at 162-0 and a Yankee must win the MVP, World Series MVP, fill every All-Star starting position, take the All-Star MVP, Cy Young Award, Triple Crown and all nine Gold Gloves.
What’s wrong with that?
Fair weather fan? Yup, and mighty proud of it. Watching the Yankees and following my (now paltry) 401(k) both should be a thing of joy and immense personal satisfaction, always. None of this up and down, win-some¬-lose-some nonsense. No Yankee losses and 500 percent growth across the board.
Isn’t that’s how it’s supposed to be?
Fell under the Yankee spell in the fourth grade, enveloped in the aura of pin-striped legends and heroes doing battle on hallowed ground. At that time, in 1964, the Mets had Marvelous Marv Throneberry, Gary Kroll and Tom Sturdivant. The Yanks? Whitey Ford, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Dude, no contest. So what’s frustrating? By the time I became a fan, the Yankees, well, stunk, finishing dead last.
It was during that era that my Dad took my little brother Dennis and me to our first game at “The Stadium.” It wasn’t a happy memory.
Somehow I convinced my older brother Kevin to part temporarily with his Kodak Instamatic. With that and box seats on the first base line, we were living large. Before the first pitch, Dennis and I raced down to field level as the Yankees emerged from the dugout. Most ran, but big Number 7, Mickey Mantle himself, took his time crossing the infield. Seizing the moment, I raised the camera to eye level and shouted “Hey, Mickey!” Damn if he didn’t stop and turn toward me. Honest! My heart pounding, I squeezed as hard as my 10-year-old fingers allowed, but the shutter never clicked. The Mick turned back and trotted out to center field. The moment gone forever. Why? Operator error. My finger was no more than a quarter inch away from the shutter release. My moment of photographic glory flew by, like a fastball missing the plate by thismuch. Imagine my dismay when the roll produced only a handful of pictures, all of the back of the head of the bald guy in front of me.
Eventually got a camera of my own, but the Mick never appeared in the viewfinder. Many years hence, I would photograph porn queen Linda Lovelace for the Washington Post, but that’s another story.
Had no luck on the field either. During tryouts at age 12, a pitch inexplicably found my bat and the ball streaked into the outfield. That, however, was as good as it got. Never put the ball in play, not once, during the whole season. In sharply descending order of occurrence; struck out, walked or got hit by a pitch. Charlie Brown, without the stupid sweater.
When older brother Mike invited me to last Saturday’s game against the Houston Astros, just knew they’d blow it in the ninth inning, inducing a teeth-grinding, bumper-to-bumper crawl all the way down the Major Degan and the Grand Central. Ah, but then Derek Jeter led off with a home run, he “went yard” again a few innings later and later still Jorge Posada belted a grand slam into the Astros’ bullpen, the first of two he’d hit against the Astros in two days. Dee-lightful.
Wonder how my 401(k) is doing?
Tim Kelly is editor of The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at [email protected] or 631-298-3200, ext. 238.