Sunday, September 30, 2007

A New End

Today is the end of the season and tomorrow is the beginning of the postseason.

“It feels kinda weird,” said Javier from Walton Avenue. “I think the team just wants to finish this and get ready for Cleveland on Thursday. That’s what we’ve all been waiting for.”


Saturday, September 29, 2007


Javier went for a chocolate donut this morning.

“I know it’s not good for me,” he said, “but it’s tasty and this is the weekend. Oatmeal is fine most days, but you’ve got to have some balance in your life.”

Joe Torre is trying to find that same balance with the playoff-bound Yankees.

“Some of the guys are getting a break,” Javier said. “They need it because they’ve been climbing uphill for months.

“This is like Spring Training all over again,” he continued. “They just need to get everyone ready for next week because that’s when the games mean something again.”

Javier polished off his donut and washed it down with the last of his coffee.

“Okay,” he smiled. “One more chocolate donut and then it’s back to oatmeal.”

Friday, September 28, 2007


There aren’t many easy days in the Bronx, but this feels like one.

“What happened to all the pressure?” Javier asks the crowd bellied up to the counter at the Crown Diner. “Don’t you guys have anything to worry about?”

“Just regular stuff,” Jon says. “The rent’s due on Monday and I’ve gotta work this weekend and the laundry bag is full.

“But everything is coming together for the Yanks,” he continues. “That’s what really matters.

“More coffee for the whole place. I’m buying!”

Everyone laughs.

“You guys always have something to hash over,” Javier says. “Aren’t you worried about the playoffs? What about Cleveland or the Angels or Boston?”

“The Yankees can beat any of them,” Jon says. “They can play through October and knock off everyone. They are a good team and these are good days.”


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Along For The Ride

The Yankees wrapped up a playoff spot in Tampa Bay and Javier unwrapped a cigar in the Bronx.

“A Grande,” he said. “I lit it when Robbie squeezed that pop up.”

It was a big step in a steep climb.

“Everyone seemed to enjoy last night and they deserved it,” Javier said. “It’s hard to dig out of such a big hole and get past so many good teams.

“This will wear off in a few days and we’ll start looking ahead to the playoffs,” he continued. “But this has already been a fine season and I’m happy to be along for the ride.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Javier peeled the lid off his paper cup and scanned the faces gathered around Juan’s coffee cart this morning.

“Did someone die?” he asked.

“No,” Jon said. “We’re just talking about the game.”

“It wasn’t very good,” Javier shrugged. “Too many walks and two home runs and we go home a loser. It’s too bad they couldn’t wrap it up last night, but it’s not the end of the world.”

“We know it’s not the end of the world,” Jon snapped. “They just need to finish this and get ready for the playoffs.”

“They’ll finish it,” Javier smiled. “Buy cigars for tonight.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Extending The End

The end always sneaks up.

“I can’t believe it’s the last home game,” Henry said to no one in particular outside the players’ gate.

A Yankees’ loss weighs on Henry and the end of the season makes it heavier.

“I wanted them to win this one,” he said. “Now we’ll have to wait for the playoffs. I’ll see you here for the playoffs, right?”

Anyone who waits outside the players’ gate sees Henry.

“I don’t get autographs,” he said. “I just like to see the players.”

And he’ll always talk about baseball. It may be the summer game to some, but the Yankees never stop in the Bronx.

You will see Henry at Yankee Stadium on the darkest winter day. He will run through every trade and signing and tell you when pitchers and catchers report and how long until Opening Day.

“The end of the season is sad,” Henry said. “I want the playoffs to last a long time.”

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday Fun

Phil Rizzuto taught us about baseball.

“The Scooter never let you forget that this game is fun,” said Javier. “We take it seriously around here and sometimes we forget that. This was a refresher course.”

The Yankees honored Rizzuto’s memory before yesterday’s game. Reggie Jackson told stories and so did Bobby Murcer. Bill White and Yogi Berra were there and so was the Rizzuto family. There were video tributes and flowers and music and everyone cheered.

“He was the best,” said Javier. “New York will always love him because he made us smile and taught us how much fun baseball can be.”

And there’s nothing more fun than a Monday afternoon ballgame.

“Yeah,” Javier smiled.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wild Ride

Javier from Walton Avenue had no trouble describing the Yankees’ extra-inning win on Saturday.

“It was like being on a bus going downhill with no brakes,” he said. “You couldn’t get off so just hold on tight.”

It finally rolled to a stop when Melky Cabrera drilled a game-winning single in the 10th inning.

“Melky was the hero,” Javier said. “Everyone will remember that last knock, but he had two other big hits to help us get to extra innings. And starting the relay that nailed (Matt) Stairs at the plate in the top of the 10th inning was probably the play of the game.”

They needed every big hit and every big play to keep the game from getting out of control.

“I’m just glad it’s finally over,” said Javier, “and that we survived.”

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Next Win

It was past midnight when Jon tugged my elbow outside gate 4.

“Long night,” he sighed. “That was a tough one to lose.”

“It happens,” I shrugged.

“We’ll get ‘em tomorrow,” Jon said. “We’ve always got to stay focused on the next win.

“The guys are right,” he laughed. “I sound more like Joe Torre every day.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Friday, September 21, 2007

Work To Do

Jon from Highbridge settled into a comfortable seat on the 2 train.

“You know it’s gonna be a good day when you get a spot right on the end,” he said.

“The Yankees are in a comfortable position, too,” someone said.

“Yeah,” Jon agreed, “but I’m trying not to get too excited.”

“It looks like they’ll be in the playoffs,” someone said.

“They’ve put themselves in a good position,” Jon said. “But there’s still work to do.”

“You sound like Joe Torre,” someone said.

“Good,” Jon said. “He’s the man in charge and has been through this before. He knows how the team needs to finish and then get ready for the postseason.”

Jon stood up as the train jerked to a stop.

“Let’s go to work.”

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Mariano Rivera played rock against Scott Moore’s scissors.

It was a darting, two-seamed rock that clipped the plate for a called third strike. Yankees win.

It wasn’t easy because one-run games never are and wrapping up Andy Pettitte’s 200th victory added to the pressure.

“I wanted to get this save for Andy,” Rivera said.

Rivera has been the rock at the end of the bullpen forever. He has saved everything from Roger Clemens’ 300th win to three-straight World Series.

“I wouldn’t want anyone else closing out my games,” Pettitte said. “He’s absolutely amazing.”

The ninth inning got interesting when Nick Markakis blooped a one-out double to rightfield. After getting Kevin Millar to fly out, Rivera walked Aubrey Huff and Ramon Hernandez to load the bases.

“It’s a one-run lead and you have the heart of the lineup there,” Rivera explained. “I was trying to be careful. When the situation was bases loaded, I didn’t know the guy who was hitting (Moore) so I’ll take my chances with him.”

The chances were: rock, paper, scissors.

Rock dulls scissors. Game over.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Derek Jeter – not wanting to waste those little sticky notes – is always posting verbal reminders:

“We haven’t accomplished anything,” Jeter said after last night’s win. “We have to stay focused and keep playing well.”

Message received:

“He always says the same thing,” said Javier from Walton Avenue. “The funny thing is that I still need to hear it. The mood of this neighborhood hangs on Derek Jeter’s words.”

Javier – like all serious fans in the Bronx – takes his lead from The Captain.

“If he says that we need to stay focused then we will stay focused.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tough Enough

Tough teams win tough games and tough players make the difference.

The Yankees needed every bit of grit to pull out a win against the Orioles last night

Phil Hughes was plenty tough after giving up two runs in the first inning. Edwar Ramirez got a bases-loaded strikeout in the sixth and Luis Vizcaino did the same in the seventh. Mariano Rivera finished the game with a strikeout, too.

Doug Mientkiewicz had the toughest at-bat. Hard-throwing Daniel Cabrera hit Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano to bring Mientkiewicz up with the bases loaded. He dug in and drilled a two-RBI single.

There was tough play all around: big hits by Cano and Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter and then there was Johnny Damon diving across home plate on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez.

Tough, tougher and toughest. That’s the way the team is playing these days.


Mystery is creeping into the Sunday night showdown between Mariano Rivera and David Ortiz.

Rivera was hit on the right hand by a wild throw from Boston’s bullpen before he entered the game. He lost some feeling in his fingers, but still took the ball and sealed the win.

It may never reach the legendary and mysterious status of Satchel Paige verses Josh Gibson, but it’s a start.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Baseball stories age well.

The famous bases-loaded showdown between Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in the 1942 Negro League World Series has taken many forms:

Paige may have “intentionally” walked two batters to load ‘em up for Gibson. And he may have said “I’m gonna throw smoke at your yoke,” and “I’m gonna throw a pea at your knee.”

The trainer may have come to the mound with a big cup of bubbling bicarbonate to settle Paige’s stomach.

The one sure thing is that Paige blew a fastball past Gibson to end the inning.

There is less mystery surrounding last night’s bases-loaded showdown between Mariano Rivera and David Ortiz, but it was still a classic.

“I tried to make it interesting,” Rivera said. “That wasn’t my intention at all. It just happens.”

A one-run lead with the bases full and Ortiz at the plate is often a recipe for disaster, but Rivera finished the game with a cutter that was popped to short centerfield.

“That’s my best pitch,” said Rivera. “That’s his powerhouse and we went strength verses strength.”

There’s no better baseball story than that.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Way It’s Supposed To Be

Baseball parties never last long and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Short celebrations lead to more games dipped in drama.

The last party is always over.

And tonight will be every bit the drama-dipped game. Roger Clemens will take the ball after taking two cortisone shots in his elbow. The Yankees’ pennant hopes go to the mound with him and there is no one better to hand the season to.

Clemens is the greatest pitcher ever – to say any different isn’t even making interesting conversation – and probably the toughest customer this game has ever seen.

We will get no less than his best and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Lenny from Highbridge looked down a nearly empty 2 train this morning.

“When Abreu drilled that ball to center I knew Jeter was gonna score,” he said. “I was right with him.”

He eased up from his seat and dropped a newspaper on the floor. “He read it off the bat and nothing could stop him.”

Lenny scampered down the isle forcing the few riders on the train to lift their feet. He touched the far pole, flew back and slid into the newspaper. “Tie game!” he yelled.

Getting to his feet, he continued: “And Abreu went to third and A-Rod drove him in and Vizcaino was great and Posada’s throw and Mariano, wow, Mariano. You really had to see it.”

Or be on the 2 train this morning.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What’s Done

Chris Britton wrapped up the night.

“What’s done is done,” he told reporters gathered around his locker.

They were asking if he wanted any of the pitches back. “I’d like the two hits back,” he said. “I wanted to get that last one away from Frank Thomas, but it just didn’t get there.”

And the Yankees had to settle for taking two of three in Toronto.

“You can’t win ‘em all,” said Jon from Highbridge. “A tight ballgame can go either way.”

If Hideki Matsui’s line drive in the sixth or Melky Cabrera’s shot in the ninth had gotten past Lyle Overbay it may have gone the other way.

“You can’t look back,” Jon said. “Britton’s right: What’s done is done.”

Thursday, September 13, 2007


The signs were clear.

Derek Jeter held out his hands and gave Mariano Rivera a sly smile after Lyle Overbay chopped an infield single to load the bases with two outs in the eighth inning. Rivera didn’t need the smile, but it helped Javier from Walton Avenue.

“I was getting nervous,” he said. “Anything can happen with the bases loaded, but Derek made me relax.”

Rivera stuck out Gregg Zaun to end the inning.

“Mariano is a cool customer,” Javier said. “The only thing you get from him is that the job will be done.”

Jeter is the team’s personality.

“Derek tells you everything you need to know,” Javier said.

He is the calm and the fire and the stare and the smile.

“I needed that little smile last night,” Javier said. “Sometimes you just want to know that everything’s gonna be alright.”

Jeter always flashes the signs.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Talking Mood

Juan Pedrosa from Gerard Avenue was in a talking mood this morning.

“Didn’t you think it was hard to get a read on last night’s game?” he asked no one in particular.

“I thought that ball Wells ripped in the second was headed for the gap,” he continued. “I jumped out of my chair when Damon ran it down.

“Then there was Giambi’s grand slam,” he went on. “Off the bat I was saying, ‘I hope it’s deep enough to score the runner from third.’ The ball went out easily. Sometimes I just don’t know when it’s on television.”

“What about Posada’s homer?” someone asked.

“I didn’t know it was out,” Juan admitted, “but I knew it was hammered. I don’t think it would have made a difference if I was there because it was a liner just like one of Reggie’s in the ’77 Series.”

“Were you there for that?” someone else asked.

“Yeah, but I was in the upper deck out in right so I got the best look at the last one. Reggie’s third homer in game six will always be from that view. It went up and just kept going and going. It was something.”

“This team is something, too,” someone offered.

“They’re good,” Juan agreed. “They’ve really come together in the last couple of months and I think they can make a run at the whole thing.”

“Who’s pitching tonight?” someone asked.

“Mussina against McGowan,” Juan said. “Man, I could talk about this stuff all day.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bad Moon Rising

Major League Baseball officials met with the Albany District Attorney’s Office yesterday. It’s being reported the MLB is “trying to gain the same kind of cooperation with investigators that the NFL has received.”

Beautiful. Big business cozying up with the government. How do you think that’s going to turn out?

We got a glimpse last week when someone in the Albany District Attorney’s Office decided to smear Rick Ankiel – along with Troy Glaus and Jay Gibbons – by leaking medical records to the media.

Ankiel is a great baseball story and a great baseball player.

His medical records don’t change that.

They can tap his phone and read his emails and track the Web sites he visits and that won’t change it either. They can follow him around and find out what books he reads and throw his friends in jail if they won’t testify against him and it still won’t change.

Ankiel was a good pitcher who remade himself into good hitter.

The people chasing him have only made a mess of everything this country is supposed to stand for, starting with the fact that no one should be branded by the type of medical treatment they receive. That’s why such matters are supposed to be between a doctor and a patient.

But I guess we are well past that now. The Albany District Attorney’s Office is part of the government that once stood for decency and now stands for torture. They are part of the team that’s ripped democracy out by the roots and shook out every last dollar.

If this government were as concerned with providing medical care as they are with disclosing confidential medical records there wouldn’t be more that 46 million Americans that can’t even go to a doctor when they’re sick.

But this government isn’t about what’s good for people anymore. It’s about what’s good for business.

A partnership between the Albany District Attorney’s Office and Major League Baseball is good for business.

And that’s perfect for America these days.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Everyday Baseball

I was digging through the newspaper on the 2 train when someone jabbed my arm. It was my friend Javier.

“What are you reading,” he asked.

“Baseball,” I said. “What else is worth reading?”

“Nothing,” Javier shrugged. “Unless you want to feel bad.”

“There’s plenty of news that will do that,” I agreed.

“At least baseball is good these days, right?” Javier asked.

“Yeah,” I smiled. “No matter how bad things get we always have baseball.”

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Knees And Shoulders

Everyone wanted to talk about Derek Jeter’s knee.

“I worry about the kid,” said Javier from Highbridge. “I think he’s too tough for his own good sometimes. He probably shouldn’t have played at all. I’m glad they took him out when they did. We need him feeling better.”

There was also talk about Alex Rodriguez’s shoulder.

“The guys are having fun with him,” Javier said. “Johnny Damon said everyone thinks Alex is trying to win an Oscar. Later, some reporter asked Alex if he would settle for an MVP.”

“What did he say?” someone asked.

Javier smiled, “He said he’ll settle for a World Series title.”

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Draw It Up

That’s the way you draw up Yankees wins these days – hand a lead to Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera and shake hands when it’s over – unless you’re my stomach which was tied in knots during the last three innings.

Maybe it was because I wanted so badly for Chamberlain to pitch well in front of his family – especially his father Harlan – who traveled to Kansas City from Lincoln, Nebraska.

It probably also had something to do with the tight playoff race and it certainly had plenty to do with being stuck in front of a television.

Television baseball is a poor substitute for real baseball and after a nine-game homestand it took some time to make the adjustment. It always does.

You feel like part of the game at the Stadium: watching, scoring, cheering, waving home runs over the wall and slapping hands with your neighbors.

In front of the television you are isolated and your wife keeps telling you to quiet down so the neighbors don’t call the cops.

Road trips are rough, but I’ll take it if the Yankees keep drawing up wins.

A Smile

Reggie flashed a smile this morning.

“That was a big win,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, but the guys got it done.”

“They’ve got to get it done tonight, too,” someone said.


Friday, September 7, 2007

Day Off

Good days move too fast and bad days not fast enough. Street-corner philosophers can explain the phenomenon in a minute, but Reggie skipped the street corner this morning and was crammed on a downtown 2 train.

It had already been a long ride from Burke Avenue when he collapsed the newspaper in his lap.

“Nothing,” he said. “There’s no real news on the guys. I know A-Rod and Jeter and everyone else can use a day off in September, but it feels like forever since we played.”

It was quickly pointed out that the Yankees win over Seattle was a little more than 24 hours before.

“It seems longer,” Reggie said. “I’m always looking forward to the next one. We need every game we can get.”

He snapped open the newspaper and scanned the standings.

“Any day without a win is bad.”

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Little Things

Everyone is talking about the big 7th inning.

“A-Rod is really something,” said Al from Washington Heights. “I was worried when he had to go for more tests on his ankle, but I guess he’s okay.”

Alex Rodriguez tied the game with a solo home run to start the 7th and put it away with a two-run shot later in the inning.

“It’s an honor to watch him,” Al continued. “He is, absolutely, the greatest player ever.”

The greatest player praised the little things. “The team did a lot of good things to keep us in the game,” Rodriguez explained. “With the way (Jarrod) Washburn was pitching we needed to keep it close.”

It started with the first ground ball that Robinson Cano barehanded to get Ichiro Suzuki. Then there was Jose Molina’s amazing throw to nail Ichiro trying to steal in the 3rd and Shelley Duncan digging a ball out of the rightfield corner to catch Raul Ibanez trying to stretch a single in the 6th.

And, of course, there was Phil Hughes’ great start and his big strikeout of Jose Lopez with one out and a runner on third in the 4th.

“The little things made a big difference,” Al said, “but I still loved the 7th.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


There isn’t much talk on the 2 train at 7 a.m. Most people are reading newspapers or taking naps, but a man piped up this morning.

“Can someone help me with directions?” he asked. “I’m trying to get to the Statue of Liberty.”

An awkward stillness hovered before a man looked over his paper and said, “You’re on the right train. Just transfer to the 1 at Chambers Street and it’ll drop you right there.”

“Thanks, I haven’t been to New York City before,” the tourist said. “I’m doing the sights early because I’ve got tickets to see the Yankees tonight.”

“Where are you sitting?” someone asked.

“Don’t know,” the tourist answered as he fished a ticket out of his wallet. “Have a look.”

“Tier box behind the plate,” someone said. “Good seat.”

“Cheer Phil (Hughes) to a win,” said someone else. “We need another big game.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I Am Nicaraguan

I am Nicaraguan on this day when everything is on the line for my people.

I am Nicaraguan for everyone in Region Autonoma del Atlantico Norte and for those hit hardest by the hurricane in Punta Gorda and Puerto Cabezas.

I am Nicaraguan for Marvin Benard and Porfi Altamirano and Albert Williams and Tony Chevez and David Green and Devern Hansack and Vicente Padilla because baseball is most important when everything else is falling apart.

I am Nicaraguan for Dennis Martinez who defines baseball in his country.

I am Nicaraguan for Roberto Clemente who died nearly 35 years ago bringing relief to earthquake-ravaged Managua.

I am Nicaraguan for everyone suffering. I want them to pull together and pull through. I want that for them and for me and for us because we are all Nicaraguan.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Joba Shirt

The first Joba Chamberlain T-shirt was spotted at Yankee Stadium a week ago. It was homemade with “Joba” and “62” done in masking tape.

“I couldn’t wait,” said Marcus from Walton Avenue. “I really wanted a shirt and nobody was selling them.”

New York City is now full of Joba T-shirts. They are blue with “Chamberlain” silk screened in white over a big “62.”

“I bought one,” said Marcus, “but I like mine better. Those fancy ones should say ‘Joba,’ too.”

That’s what the crowd chants.

“Boy, he’s something,” said Marcus. “The place really gets going when he comes into a game. And when he gets a strike out, well, you’ve really got to be there. It‘s nuts.”

Chamberlain will get his chances against Seattle and Marcus will be there wearing the first Joba T-shirt.

“I’m going to stick with my masking-tape job,” he said. “It’s worked so far.”

Sunday, September 2, 2007

New Kid

Shelley Duncan smiled as he walked toward the crowd gathered near the players’ gate. He headed for a kid holding out a ball and a pen and then moved on to everyone else.

“Give me a high-five,” said Lonnie from Highbridge.

Duncan laughed and kept signing everything thrust his way.

“Just one high-five,” Lonnie pleaded. “Give me one like you do the guys.”

Duncan finally leaned over and slapped Lonnie’s hand.

“All right!”

“We love you Shelley,” a woman shirked.

“Yeah,” another said. “You’re the best.”

“Hey,” someone yelled, “it’s Don Mattingly.”

The chant started: “Donnie Baseball. Donnie Baseball. Donnie Baseball...”

“I guess Shelley knows what it’s like to be the new kid in the neighborhood,” Lonnie said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with being the new kid.

“Ian Kennedy should be coming out soon.”

Saturday, September 1, 2007


I was totaling my scorecard just outside gate 4 when I felt a tug on my elbow.

“Weird,” Javier shrugged.

Last night’s loss was weird, but baseball goes that way sometimes.

“Come back tomorrow,” Javier said. “That’s all we can do, right?”