Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The Yankee Deli-Grocery has a new awning.

It’s a minor detail in a neighborhood where change is everywhere. But this fancy new awning hangs over the same small piece of Walton Avenue and – ironically or maybe not – says exactly the same thing: Yankee Deli-Grocery, Cold Beers, Cold Sodas, Sandwiches, Ice.

So why get a new one?

The counterman shrugs, “Are you buyin’ somethin’?”

Like most things in the Bronx, the Yankee Deli-Grocery has some of everything and not enough of anything. You could survive if it was your only means of supply, but survive is a broad term.

Within its single room you can find canned soups, beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. There is bread, rice, cereal, water, peanut butter, snacks, sauces, tobacco, newspapers, wine, and, of course, beer, soda, ice, and fresh sandwiches. There is even a rack near the door with underwear – men’s and women’s – and pantyhose in case of a run or a bank job.

No one would rob the Grocery because that would leave nowhere to spend the bank money. And they also just invested in that new awning.

“Neighborhood’s changin’,” the counterman explains. “New Stadium. New parks. New streets. Just tryin’ to keep up.”

But everything else is the same. You have to turn sideways and suck in your gut to move around and I had to wait for a five-year-old to pick out his bag of chips before I could get my orange juice.”

“It ain’t changin’ that much,” he smiles.

“Your change.”

Keep it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Dean

The Dean of Yankee beat bloggers is having a birthday. I may be the only one who calls Peter Abraham that, but everyone is celebrating the birthday.

He started pounding out a blog for The Journal News last February. Over the past year he has completely changed the way many follow the team. You can no longer rely on just newspaper, radio and television coverage. The LoHud Yankees Blog is essential reading for anyone who wants the freshest angle.

Readers always come first with breaking stories, injury updates and lineup changes. He mixes knowledgeable inside-the-clubhouse-type commentary with sharp wit to produce a product that stands out in a sea of baseball blogs.

I used to feel guilty about getting my coverage from a suburban beat writer, but you can’t hide talent, even in Westchester. Besides, I think The Dean is a city guy at heart. You don’t find his kind of edgy-humor in a shopping mall.

Maybe his greatest accomplishment is the community of Yankee fans he’s pulled together. They range from diehard supporters to frightened pessimists to stat geeks to hair-trigger reactionaries. They are an interesting and entertaining bunch, but I’m not sure how they would get along at the Yankee Tavern after a disappointing loss.

The Dean is always working to improve coverage and now features audio so you can hear entire interviews. Then you can pick up the paper and see how he crafts them into stories.

It’s harder than it looks.

But The Dean always makes it look easy.

Even on his birthday.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Imagination Is The Ticket

Legends are the product of imagination.

Point a camera and they can start to fade. First come the black-and-whites and then the color back pages. Television moves quickly these days and can drain some life from the game.

But baseball legends will survive as long as there is imagination.

They will exist for those who dream of wearing flowered shirts and watching batting practice on lazy Florida mornings. And for those who understand that baseball is more about art and dance and music and magic than it is about numbers.

That kind of imagination is cultivated on late-night radio broadcasts and in shadowy old ballparks. Listen if you want to find the game’s rhythm and watch if you want to climb inside its dusty soul.

You will no longer need proof that Babe Ruth called his shot or that Josh Gibson hit a ball out of Yankee Stadium or that Satchel Paige was the greatest.

You will be able to hear Humberto Sanchez’s fastball and see Phil Hughes’ curve and feel Jose Tabata’s power.

It’s there for those who imagine.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Legends start in the wind.

They float over high-school baseball fields and dimly lit towns. They move quickly through places like Charleston and Tampa and Trenton.

They pass along busy counters and across tables and around subway cars. They build on park benches and at newsstands and bars and cigar shops and crowded groceries.

And then one day a whole city is talking about someone they’ve never seen. A pitcher who is equal parts Walter Johnson and Roger Clemens. The Big Train and The Rocket rolled into one big strike-throwing machine.

Legends like that can’t be written and they certainly can’t be broadcast. And that’s why they can only be forged here, in New York, where baseball isn’t just the most important game, but often the most important thing. Period.

Phil Hughes is all anyone is talking about this morning. His legend is seeping from the sidewalks and the sewers and rising over the city in a cloud that will surely burst into the sunniest day of a beautiful baseball summer.

Newspaper reports will continue and we will probably get a television look in Spring Training, but we won’t truly see him until he squeezes through the clubhouse door at Yankee Stadium.

The legend will grow as we anticipate the moment he climbs the mound and throws his first pitch.

Close your eyes for a look: blazing fastballs, knee-buckling curves, exploding sliders, and disappearing changes.

The stuff of legends.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Order has been restored to Spring Training. Mariano is smiling, Moose is working on crossword puzzles, Carl is fitting in, and Derek and Alex are playing catch.

The hottest piece of news to come out of Tampa yesterday was that George Steinbrenner had fried catfish, potatoes, corn, chocolate cake and coffee for lunch and then used the old park-in-front-of-the-lunchroom-then-slip-out-the-side-door gag to ditch a group of quote-hungry reporters. Peter Abraham of The Journal News had the best angle on the story and even snapped a picture of the decoy vehicle, which was a golf cart.

Today promises only baseball and more cat-and-mouse with The Boss so I thought it would be a good time to confess:

I love baseball, burritos, the B train, and Barry Bonds.

I also love my wife, my dog, my team, my city, my neighborhood, and my seat at Yankee Stadium.

I attend every home game and watch every road game on television.

I know that’s not normal.

I realize I’m crazy, which means I’m not crazy. I think.

It’s really insane to score every game, but I do it anyway.

I’ve had good ideas: Starting a blog.

And bad ideas: Becoming an art student through the mail.

I bleed Yankee blue and will defend my team and everyone on it until my last breath.

I believe Derek Jeter is the most important man in this city.

I also believe Alex Rodriguez will lead this team through October.

And that Mariano Rivera will get the final out of a glorious baseball season.

I believe Carl Pavano will have a comeback season.

I always vote for Ralph Nader.

I know that Mike Mussina means more to this staff than any of us realize.

And that Jorge Posada is the toughest man in the world.

I can’t wrap my mind around how great Robinson Cano can be.

It’s impossible not to love Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi.

Young hitters should watch Hideki Matsui.

Young pitchers should watch Chien-Ming Wang.

It’s good to have Andy Pettitte back.

The Bronx will buzz when Humberto Sanchez makes his first start at Yankee Stadium.

Phil Hughes’ first start will be declared a holiday.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The King Of New York

Derek Jeter is unflappable, unbeatable and completely unstoppable. That unquestionably makes him the King of New York.

Alex Rodriguez is focused, determined and immensely talented. That positively makes him the King of New York.

The King of New York leads this team.

The King of New York is the big right-handed bat in this lineup.

The King of New York is the heart and soul.

The King of New York wears his heart on his sleeve.

The King of New York has always been a Yankee.

The King of New York was born in Washington Heights.

The King of New York hits everything.

The King of New York hits cleanup.

The King of New York is a workaholic.

The King of New York works too hard.

The King of New York knows every situation.

The King of New York knows every pitcher.

The King of New York is the best player in the game.

The King of New York is the best to ever play the game.

The King of New York hates to lose.

The King of New York loves to win.

The season depends on the King of New York.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I bumped into a pragmatist on the D train.

He dropped his newspaper and asked why people are obsessed with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. “Can’t they just let them play ball?”

In New York City it’s not obsession. It’s called Driven. And we can’t just let them play ball because they aren’t playing, yet.

Pitchers are throwing in the bullpen and position players are taking batting practice.

New Yorkers need more.

First it was Mariano.

Then it was Joe and George.

Then it was Carl and Moose.

And it’s been Bernie all along.

Now it’s Derek and Alex.

Nothing makes the streets rumble, groan, scream and rattle like baseball. Newspapers aren’t responsible for that. They just report it. That’s life in this city.

No one handles it better than Jeter.

Peter Abraham of The Journal News reported that after Jeter finished interviews this morning he said, “How come nobody asked me about the new hats?”

“Okay, so what about the hats?”

“They’re terrible!”

Tomorrow’s headlines.

Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez will be taking the field at Yankee Stadium in exactly 41 days.

That’s 984 hours. Or 59,040 minutes. Or 3,542,400 seconds.

Yeah, Driven.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Back Where He Started

Everyone ends up back where they started.

Bernie Williams found that out when he was offered a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.

That bucket of icy reality showed him that there are no guarantees in 2,336 hits, 287 home runs and four World Championships. If he wants to keep playing at 38, he will need to be the 22-year-old who first turned heads in 1991.

Jorge Posada was recently asked what he would do in Williams’ situation.

“I would have come,” he said. “I would have been here and shown that I have a lot left and see what happens. You give it another chance. That’s the way I see it. Let me try to make the club, say, ‘I’m better than this guy.’”

That challenge is what baseball’s all about, but it’s easy to forget sometimes. There seems to be so much more when you’re on top. You can get comfortable with the money and fame, but the game will always bring you back where you started.

It’s about the grass, the dirt, the ball, the bat, beating the nine other guys, and, most of all, it’s about your teammates.

Starting over at 38 can give you a fresh look and a new focus. Maybe Bernie will rediscover what made him love the game in the first place.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Pitchers, Catchers And Pistols

Pitchers come early to Spring Training because they are different.

Catchers come early because they know how to talk to pitchers.

Managers come early because they need to understand both.

I’ve found some stories to help explain.

The first comes from and old Ira Berkow column in The New York Times.

In 1987, Yankees manager Lou Piniella – losing 16-3 in the bottom of the eighth in Texas – decided to save his bullpen and called on catcher Rick Cerone with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Cerone balked in one of the two runs he allowed and nearly gave up a grand slam, but he did get out of the inning.

“How did it feel on the mound?” Berkow asked.

“Scary,” said Cerone. “It’s lonely out there.”

I’m sure making the pitching change was lonely for Piniella. That’s how it always is for managers.

Not even Joe Torre is immune to criticism about how he handles the Yankees pitching staff. Some think he overuses his best relievers. But everyone has his own style.

During a 1951 Cuban League game, Dolf Luque was trying to persuade Terry McDuffie to work on two days’ rest. McDuffie refused and finally said he was packing his bags.

“Less than a minute later, Luque came back carrying a pistol with a barrel that looked approximately a quarter-mile long,” Tommy Lasorda wrote in his autobiography, The Artful Dodger.

Luque put the gun to McDuffie’s head. “You’re pitching tonight.”

“Gimme the ball,” McDuffie said. “I’m ready to go.”

Before he was a manager, Luque was a pitcher.

They really are different.

And managers will forever try to understand.

Sometimes a catcher can pitch out of a jam and sometimes you have to use a pistol.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Wearing The Crown

The Crown Diner smells like years of bleach and perfect bacon.

It’s the best place to start in the Bronx. Belly to the counter – coffee, eggs over easy, home fries, and toast – getting ready to earn your way through another day.

A few miles north, Bernie Williams – a Crown favorite – is facing the same thing.

There is plenty of news coming from Tampa, but the biggest thing around here is whether Williams will try to earn a job with the Yankees.

It’s been a long time since he faced this uncertainty, but the guys at the counter have faith.

“Bernie’s tough,” Javier says. “He’s a happy guy and always smiling, but on the field you can see the player come out.”

“He did it when he was a kid,” Jerry adds. “I think he wants it badly enough so I’m sure he can do it again.”

Carman believes, too.

“Bernie will be across the street in 45 days, just like the rest of us.”

There is honor in earning your way through each day. It’s a satisfyingly-sore feeling that Williams can find in Tampa and bring to the Bronx.

If he wants to start with breakfast at the Crown, the guys at the counter will buy.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"No Ball Playing Allowed"

There used to be a baseball field in my old neighborhood.

It was wedged awkwardly amongst the buildings because it didn’t start out as a ball field. It was a school that burned down long before I was born. It evolved from a pile of rubble to a vacant lot to a beautiful little field with a basketball court in deepest right-center.

It feels like I played a million games there. Winner always held the field and when there were only enough kids for two teams we played one long game. The only rule was that that you had to complete the final inning, which was usually played when it was already too dark to pick up fly balls.

Those fly balls started to clear the fences as we got older and a few even found windows. Then some people started to complain about the noise from our games and the dribbling of basketballs.

The solution was to remove the backstop, plant grass on the infield, rip up the basketball court and put up a sign that said “No Ball Playing Allowed.”

There aren’t many ball players in the neighborhood anymore, but it’s always quiet and no windows get broken.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Field Of Schemes

A baseball field was stolen in East Harlem.

Don’t bother calling the police because they work for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s City Hall, who helped pull off the heist.

You can find the details on page 3 of today’s Daily News. Juan Gonzalez – one of the few bright spots in a city that misses Jimmy Breslin – tells how East Harlem Little League lost their home on East 112th Street. City Hall said the field was needed for a new development project.

There is no development project worth a baseball field. A just society should be built on those words. But it’s been a long time since any justice seeped out of City Hall.

This is the City Hall that cut a deal to give Manhattan’s richest private schools prime-time use of the new baseball fields on Randall’s Island. The City Hall that allowed the Yankees to start construction on a new stadium without first replacing the parkland they are building on. The City Hall that can’t wait to give tax refunds to landlords while thousands of New Yorkers sleep in the streets. The City Hall that allowed a huge chunk of Queens to sit in the dark last summer.

And now another baseball field goes dark.

Maybe the East Harlem kids can get together with the kids in the South Bronx who play in Parking Lot 15 at the corner River Avenue and East 165th Street.

Pretty soon that will be the only baseball field left in the city.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Toughest Man In The World

Jorge Posada is the toughest man in the world.

That title keeps him in the background, but he’s never out of the picture. Near game time at Yankee Stadium his left foot is always planted on the top step of the dugout. He points when it’s time and Derek Jeter leads the team onto the field.

Jeter is the team’s heart and soul. Posada is its stubbornness and toughness.

Broken noses, sprained fingers and torn tendons can’t stop him. If a piano fell from the upper deck he would flick it off his uniform like an errant sunflower seed.

Recently, people have been digging up numbers and making fancy charts and graphs to show that Major League catchers decline at his age. They conclude that the Yankees are going to need a younger catcher soon.

The problem with those conclusions is that they have never collided at the plate with the toughest man in world or tried to sneak a fastball by him late in a game.

He always finds a way to win because he hates to lose. The data can’t show you that.

Pedro Martinez was tough on him early in his career, but during the 2003 American League Championship Series the toughest man in the world called him out in game 3 and delivered the double that knocked Martinez out of game 7.

Those who believe the data can have the numbers, charts, graphs, and even Pedro Martinez.

I’ll stick with the toughest man in the world.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Spring Training In The Bronx

The Crown Diner – like most things in the Bronx – goes by more than one name. Ask for the Crown Restaurant, Crown Donuts or just the Crown and you’ll end up at the same place.

But – like all things in the Bronx – this place is never the same. It can go from bleary-eyed drunk to bright and thoughtful while you are still on your first cup of coffee.

It was business as usual on the last Sunday before pitchers and catchers report.

Everyone turns as Javier comes set in the middle of the restaurant.

“Pettitte is even better now,” he says. “More movement on his cutter. He can really dominate righties.”

The cannonball-gutted cab driver stares in before a near perfect imitation of Pettitte’s delivery sends a crumpled paper cup across the room. It hits the leg of a mother eating breakfast with her two children.


She kicks it back and Javier grins.

“I like that Andy’s back.”

There is a lot to like about the New York Yankees this year. They have plenty of young arms to backup the veteran starters. The bullpen is deep and ends with Mariano Rivera. The offense is loaded, the defense is sound and there is always Derek Jeter.

“I wish the season was starting today,” Javier says. “This is our year.”

That’s all anyone needs to know on this day.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Catch Me If You Can

As a kid he could fly. Really fly. Like the wind.

Bernie Williams could outrun the world back then. He was so fast that you believed nothing could catch him.

I’m sure he still sees the ball off the bat and remembers what it was like to be the only man who could run it down.

He has driven balls deep into the New York night and sent the world home happy. He has stretched doubles into triples with such long strides that you expected him to go all the way home.

And now home may be all he has left.

He’s put it off and still won’t completely close the door, but in his heart he knows the end is near. The Yankees simply don’t have a spot for one of the greatest players of his generation.

This is what he’s been running from since he first came to the Bronx in 1991 and even when he was piling up World Championships, gold gloves, All-Star appearances and a batting title.

Ballplayers don’t stop running until they walk away. Only then do they realize that the end was coming all along.

Who would believe anything could catch that kid?

Friday, February 9, 2007

El Duque

I believe in Orlando Hernandez.

I believe in his smile, his style, his kick, his skip, and his passion.

I believe in him regardless of his uniform.

I believe he should have worn only those of the Industriales and Team Cuba.

I believe he has the sharpest tactical-pitching mind in the world.

I believe he throws 119 different pitches.

I believe he is 26 years old.

I believe he has magic in his right hand.

I believe only Cubans truly understand him.

I believe he is still Fidel Castro’s favorite pitcher.

George Steinbrenner’s, too.

I believe he should end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I believe that, someday, I will meet the great El Duque in Havana’s Parque Central for coffee, cigars and a game of dominos before walking to Estadio Lationamericano to watch him take the mound for the Industriales.

I believe that is the way it should be.

Thursday, February 8, 2007


It took five throws to get the third out in the top of the sixth inning. Venezuela had just scored the first run in a game that Puerto Rico needed to stay alive in the Caribbean World Series.

It may seem meaningless now, knowing that Venezuela won the game 3 to 1 and the Dominican Republic wrapped up their 16th World Series title, but I can’t get that game-five play out of my head.


It was beautiful.

Even a frozen world away squinting at a 12-inch television screen, the play grabbed me.

The Scene:
Ronny Cedeno leads off the top of the sixth for Venezuela with a single. Alex Delgado pops up a bunt and first baseman Javier Valentin makes a spectacular diving catch P-3. Gregor Blanco grounds into a force out 5-4. Luis Rodriguez singles and Blanco moves to second.

The Play:
Ramon Hernandez singles to right field. Armando Rios charges the ball and comes up throwing, but Blanco scores. Yadier Molina makes a great pickup in front of home plate and delivers a quick throw to shortstop Luis Figueroa who has Hernandez hung up off first. While running Hernandez back, Figueroa keeps an eye on Rodriguez who has rounded third. When Rodriguez gets too far off the bag Figueroa twists and makes a perfect throw to Alex Cora. Cora runs Rodriguez toward home before making a throw to Molina who moves the runner back toward third before the return throw to Cora for the out.

Close your eyes and watch.



Wednesday, February 7, 2007


It wasn’t a perfect ending, but it was close enough.

Heber Gomez led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a triple and Jose Sandoval singled him home to give Mexico a 4 to 3 win over Venezuela on the final day of the Caribbean World Series.

With the Dominican Republic having already wrapped up the championship, this game was played for pride and the Mexicans showed plenty.

Vinicio Castilla did not homer to finish a brilliant career, but he led his team to one last victory with a double, a walk and a run.

The final record of 1-5 is not a true measure of the Mexicans. They lost hard-fought battles to Puerto Rico and the Dominican before edging past a tough Venezuelan team today.

They kept coming no matter how many leads slipped from their grasp. When Sandoval’s hit landed in right field, his teammates rushed from the dugout and Mexicans everywhere threw their hands in the air.

One baseball game can mean a lot. This one meant that we never quit because we are all Mexican.

I Am Mexican

I am Mexican on this sunny baseball afternoon when there is nothing at stake but pride.

I am Mexican because we need a win in the Caribbean World Series. After capturing the championship in 2005, we went 0-6 in last year’s tournament and are currently 0-5 after two hard-fought defeats against Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic this year.

I am Mexican for Vinicio Castilla who will play his last game today. He played for 16 Major League seasons as Vinny and hit 320 home runs. He helped Hermosillo win the Mexican Winter League title and would like to walk away with one last victory.

I am Mexican for Fernando Valenzuela, who first defined his country for me. Every vision I have of Dodger Stadium is with Fernando on the mound. If I ever make it to Chavez Ravine I expect to see him rocking, twisting and delivering.

I am Mexican for the great Hector Espino.

I am Mexican for all the hardworking people in Mexico City and Guadalajara and Monterrey and Puebla and Toluca and Tijuana and, of course, Hermosillo.

I am Mexican for all the hardworking people in New York and New Jersey and Connecticut and Pennsylvania and every other state in this country.

I am Mexican because I want this last great winter baseball day to end with a ball sailing over the wall at Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium in Carolina, Puerto Rico. I want to see Vinicio Castilla round first base with his hands raised. I want his teammates to lift him on their shoulders. I want this for him, for them, for me and for us because today we are all Mexican.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


It’s hard for six people to gather around a 12-inch screen, but watching baseball on television is easy street compared to stepping out in the bitter cold.

“You don’t make much money when business is slow,” Alfredo says, “but you don’t freeze either.”

Alfredo delivers food in the Bronx. The pay varies, but the benefits are good.

“I love the refried ones,” he says jabbing his stubby fingers into a cardboard container.

When the kitchen finishes a rush of orders there are usually leftover French fries. They get redropped in the fryer and served to the deliverymen.

“Double-dunked with lots of salt and ketchup,” Alfredo explains. “Nice and greasy.”

He grabs his chest playfully in a mock heart attack. Everyone laughs. These are high times on easy street. No deliveries, lots of fries and Mexico is clinging to a 2-2 tie with Puerto Rico.

It doesn’t sound like much, but Mexico hasn’t won a game in the Caribbean World Series in almost two years. Alfredo is Mexican so others try to cover any deliveries while he watches.

Armando Rios ends the party with a two-run single in the 10th inning giving Puerto Rico the win.

Alfredo tips the cardboard container and shakes loose the last of the fries. “I could eat 10 pounds of these things,” he says.

Monday, February 5, 2007

A Bronx Tale

Alberto came to the Bronx from San Juan.

“I saved to buy a pizza parlor,” he says. “It’s a good business because that’s what everyone in New York eats, right?”

The neon still says Hot Pizza & Italian Specialties, but now they also serve, “burritos, tacos, gyros, quesadillas, flautas, Chinese vegetables, Cuban sandwiches, tostones and pretty much anything you can dunk in a fryer.”

Some beliefs die harder. “This Super Bowl Sunday has been fooling me more and more,” Alberto explains. “I figure busy, but it doesn’t happen. All the (delivery) guys eat more than the customers.”

Six workers huddle around a small television on the counter. Venezuela has a big lead on Mexico in the opener of a Caribbean World Series doubleheader.

“Tonight is the big game,” Alberto says. “Jonathan Albaladejo is starting against the Dominican. Puerto Rico is going to win the championship.”

Albaladejo didn’t make it through the second inning and the Dominican Republic trounced Puerto Rico 12-0.

“We’re only halfway through this Series,” Alberto shrugs. “We’ll get another shot at the Dominicans, but what am I going to do with all this food?”

Saturday, February 3, 2007

A Cuban Affair

I fell in love last year.

Pieces of the torrid affair turned up when I was cleaning out old magazines.

Newspaper clippings, rosters, stats and notes stuffed in a scorecard from the World Baseball Classic are all that’s left. There are some clips about Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Some more about how special it was for Johnny Damon to play for his country. But my real affair didn’t start until the United States was eliminated.

The Cubans caught my eye with heart and daring, and they pulled me along on an amazing ride. They beat Venezuela and held on against Puerto Rico before advancing past the Dominicans in a game started by Yadel Marti and finished by Pedro Luis Lazo.

I will never forget Lazo’s gloved-hand punching a hole in the sky as his teammates piled on. The great Pedro Luis Lazo carrying his team to another championship game. They had ridden him from the 1996 Olympics, to the 2005 World Cup and to all the wins for the Pinar del Rio Cigar Makers. He had long been Cuba’s best and now he was just the best. Period.

Because of rules to protect Major League pitchers, Lazo was not able to play in the championship game. The Cubans made a valiant comeback but lost to Japan. My scorecard says 10 to 6. No Lazo, but a bunch of great players I came to love:

Eduardo Paret, shortstop.
Michel Enriquez, third baseman.
Yulieski Gourriel, second baseman.
Ariel Borrero, first baseman.
Frederich Cepeda, leftfielder.
Osmani Urrutia, rightfielder.
Yoandy Garlobo, designated hitter.
Ariel Pestano, catcher.
Alexei Ramirez, centerfielder.
And starting pitcher, Ormari Romero.

It was a beautiful affair.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Back In The Red

My Red Smith books took a beating at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. A coffee ring on the cover of one and chocolate-glazed fingerprints on another. There is also the ripped jacket and warped cover from a crash landing in a slushy puddle.

These books are now, as Smith once said, “As beautiful as a well-read newspaper left in a heap on the D train.”

His baseball stories were to be consumed on crowded trains, and they were enjoyed daily for more than 50 years.

“I punch the clock every day,” Smith said. “Over the years people asked, ‘Isn’t it dull covering baseball every day?’ My answer: ‘It becomes dull only to dull minds.’ If you have the perception and the interest to see it, and the wit to express it, your story is always different from yesterday’s story.”

It’s hard to find fresh insight on the train these days. Sometimes an armload of books is best.

“The question of what to do with old newspaper columns isn’t quite the same as how to dispose of used razor blades, but the difference is negligible,” Smith said. “This is especially so in baseball where today’s defeat makes yesterday’s victory meaningless. Why preserve dead columns for public display? The answer, if there is one, is: Because everything written is part of the record of its time. Everyone who writes reflects the age in which they live, and this is no less true of the baseball writer than of the dramatist, essayist or historian.”

Red Smith would have been a great blogger.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

On Your Toes

You learn a lot by listening.

Actually, you learn everything by listening.

I learned that from an old newspaper editor.

“Nobody gives a damn what you think,” he’d bellow. “Listen to people and tell me what they think. The story is always about the people.”

There were plenty of people in line for tickets at Yankee Stadium, yesterday.

“I didn’t get all my games,” Raymond says. “I think people on the Internet beat me.”

He came out before dawn.

“Like rich people with computers don’t have enough over us.” Raymond shrugs. “We should get a head start. They’re all snug and warm and I won’t be able to feel my toes until Opening Day.”

Standing on frozen concrete for five hours is the equivalent to getting bowled over at home plate by Mark Teixeira.

“I’ll be sore tomorrow,” Raymond says. “But I’ve got some tickets so I guess it ain’t so bad.”

Opening Day?

“Yeah,” Raymond smiles. “Chien-Ming Wang versus Scott Kazmir. I don’t know how many days, but when I start to feel my toes I’ll know it’s getting close.”