Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Reminder

Bobby Abreu tossed out a reminder after last night’s win.

“Anything can happen in this game,” he said. “You just have to play hard and see how it turns out.”

It didn’t start out well. The Yankees fell behind 4-1 in the bottom of the first inning when an error led to two unearned runs. But they chipped away, took the lead and hung on for a 6-5 victory.

The offense battled back, but the win belonged to Mike Mussina. He pitched out of that first inning and was able to shut down the Twins through the sixth. It was his eighth victory and ties him for the American League lead.

“I know it took me until the end of August to get to eight last year,” Mussina told Peter Abraham of the Journal News. “I’ve had a lot of things go my way. I’ve been very fortunate. I couldn’t have predicted eight wins after two months. When I got to Spring Training I was hoping to stay in the rotation.”

But Abreu reminded everyone:

“Anything can happen in this game. You just have to play hard and see how it turns out.”

Last night turned out pretty good.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Jon was searching for an old friend this morning. He looked up and down Ogden Avenue before cutting across West 162nd Street and down Woodycrest Avenue.

He crossed Jerome Avenue and walked between the old Yankee Stadium and the construction of the new Yankee Stadium. The sidewalks were jammed, but there wasn’t a friendly face.

The Crown Diner was full of strangers and so was Twin Donut. Ball Park Lanes was empty and Jon was out of time.

“I’ve gotta get to work,” he said before heading down the stairs to the subway near the centerfield bleachers. “I’ll look around later.”

Jon was trying to find some comfortable baseball talk on the morning after the Yankees had a day off in Minnesota.

“Life’s a little lonely without a game,” Jon admitted. “There wasn’t much to do last night and there isn’t much to talk about today.

“At least I know where to look tonight,” he reasoned. “Moose is taking the ball.”

Jon cracked a smile.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Coming Along Nicely

Javier from Walton Avenue brushed a hand along his upper lip and smiled.

“It’s coming along nicely,” he said.

“Now you’re growing a mustache?” someone fired across the 2 train this morning.

“Yeah,” Javier said. “I’m changing our luck.”

“Jason Giambi is hammering the ball now that he has a ‘stache,” someone said. “What are you doing?”

Javier winked.

“It’s making me a better fan,” he said. “I can clap harder and cheer louder. They heard me in Baltimore last night.”

“You went to Baltimore?” someone asked.

“No,” Javier said. “I was in the Bronx, but they still heard me in Baltimore. They really got an earful when Giambi’s homer landed.

“I’m gonna keep the mustache as long as he’s hitting and we’re winning,” Javier continued. “Damon, Duncan and Joba are growing them now and I heard they even tried to talk Jeter into joining them.”

“Not Jeter?” someone shot.

Another smile spread across Javier’s face.

“Not yet.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Team

LaTroy Hawkins wanted to take the blame.

“I didn’t do my job, plain and simple,” Hawkins told reporters after last night’s extra-inning loss in Baltimore. “I’m embarrassed. I made no good pitches. I made all terrible pitches. The guys, they played their butts off tonight, and I came in and let it go just like that.”

Hawkins shook his head and repeated:

“Just like that.”

But baseball games are never won or lost “Just like that.”

They are battles that go for hours. The games are sometimes pushed to 10 innings or 11 innings and then they end with one pitch. The man who throws that pitch usually takes the blame, but everyone shoulders the responsibility.

That’s why they’re called a team.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another Inconvenient Truth

The National Moment of Remembrance fell neatly in the middle of the fifth inning on Memorial Day in Baltimore.

That was fitting since no one in this country ever seems willing to be inconvenienced by soldiers. One died in Iraq yesterday and another in Afghanistan the day before that. More than 4,000 Americans – including 91 New Yorkers – have been killed in wars this whole country is supposed to be fighting. But the only ones who ever sacrifice are those in uniform and the families they leave behind.

We make our soldiers use substandard equipment – old helmets that won’t stop a piece of shrapnel and no body armor and patrol vehicles that aren’t safe enough to drive on the Cross Bronx Expressway – and we give them poor pay and lousy healthcare and crummy housing and virtually no hope of a decent life back home if they’re able to survive.

If this country wants to fight wars then we should all sacrifice. There should be a military draft in place so everyone – not just poor people – has to fight. Federal taxes should be tripled to support the war effort, there should be rationing on everything from butter to gasoline and all nonessential travel should be banned.

Wearing American-flag lapel pins and putting “I Support the Troops” bumper stickers on gas-guzzling vehicles and standing in the seventh inning for God Bless America and observing the National Moment of Remembrance is the height of hypocrisy. None of that supports the troops or the veterans. All it does is make a bunch of rich people who have never had to sacrifice anything feel good.

No one has the right to stand until we all sacrifice to support the soldiers.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Little Things

Johnny Damon stated the obvious after yesterday’s win.

“Alex Rodriguez is the greatest player on the planet,” he told reporters. “When you insert him at number four, he’s going to make a difference, just his presence. Just having that great bat in the lineup can make everybody better or at least look better.”

The Yankees looked great coming back with a four-run eighth inning to beat Seattle 6-5.

Rodriguez worked a walk in the middle of the inning and everyone else filled in around him. Derek Jeter led off with a walk and Bobby Abreu put together a nine-pitch at-bat against Arthur Rhodes that ended with a run-scoring double.

Hideki Matsui beat out a slow dribbler after Rodriguez’s walk and then tagged on Robinson Cano’s sacrifice fly that tied the game. Matsui was then able to score when Jose Molina drove a ball in the gap for a double.

“You have to do the little things,” Joe Girardi always says. “The little things lead to big things.”

They certainly do.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Kevin sat in Section 3 for his first game at Yankee Stadium. His father got the tickets months ago and they were stored safely under a stack of baseball cards on his bedroom dresser until yesterday.

“I checked on them every morning,” Kevin explained. “I counted down the days, but I still can’t believe I’m seeing this.”

Kevin is eight years old and has been blind since birth.

“I still see things,” he insisted. “Yankee Stadium is just how I thought it would be.”

He listens to every game on the radio, but today his father provided the play-by-play.

“Giambi hit that to left center,” his father explained. “Wow, it’s a homer.”

“Yeah!” Kevin yelled. “Did it go over the 399 sign?”

“It sure did,” his father said.

There were more hits and runs and some big outs, too.

“Two strikeouts by Joba,” Kevin beamed. “I got to see almost everything.”

He smiled at his father.

“Do you think Mariano will close the next game we see?” Kevin asked.

“I bet he will,” his father answered.

“That’ll be great,” Kevin said. “But I don’t think anything could be more perfect than this.”

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Perfect Fit

The Yankees scored 13 runs last night, but Javier kept coming back to the first three outside the players’ gate after the game.

He settled into his batting stance at a make-believe plate and mimicked a big right-handed swing. Following the flight of an imaginary ball, he broke into a homerun trot that took him through the gathered crowd and ended with high-fives and a forearm smash.

“You gotta love Shelley Duncan,” Javier said. “He plays the way we all would play if they pulled us out of the bleachers to fill in.

“He’s just like a regular neighborhood guy,” Javier continued. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I looked up one day at the counter in the Crown Diner and he was polishing off a stack of pancakes.”

But Duncan best serves the Bronx by polishing off fastballs and sliders and curveballs.

“I pull for him to hit one out every time,” Javier explained. “We can always use the runs, but I also like the jolt he brings to the Stadium.”

Javier smiled and took one more big swing.

“Yeah,” he said. “That kid fits in perfectly around here.”

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Thing Of Beauty

Javier woke up with a smile. He untwisted the kinks from his neck, stretched his back and splashed water on his face before heading down the stairs to Walton Avenue.

His smile grew as he cut up to the Grand Concourse and bought a newspaper. The headline said: Fired Up! Girardi ejection in 9th sparks Yanks to win.

“It doesn’t really matter how you get ‘em,” Javier said. “Every win is a thing of beauty.”

He crossed East 161st Street and looked at the construction of the new Yankee Stadium and then beamed at the old Yankee Stadium sitting quietly in the morning light.

“There was some life in the old place last night,” he said. “She ain’t dead, yet.”

His smile widened as he continued on to Juan Carlos’s coffee cart.

“I’ll take a regular with two sugars, please,” he said. “And I’m buying glazed donuts for everyone.”

The guys smiled.

“That was a sweet win,” Javier said. “I jumped out of my seat when Robbie drove that ball into left field. It felt like I was running all the way with Hideki and I haven’t stopped smiling since.”

Everyone grinned and nodded as they ate glazed donuts.

It was a thing of beauty.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

High Energy

Melky Cabrera scampered out of the dugout wearing high socks last night. He skipped over the right-field foul line and started his pregame warm up as Bobby Abreu smiled and Alex Rodriguez clapped his hands and shouted encouragement.

Cabrera always brings energy to the field and his one-for-two night at the plate was only part of the story. He ran down a deep drive to center by Kevin Millar in the second inning and a shot to the gap in right by Aubrey Huff in the fourth.

He had to pull one of his pants’ legs back over his high socks after putting away the out on Huff.

Javier, who watched from the bleachers, was still talking about that play after the game.

“The kid was running so hard after the ball that his pants fell down,” Javier said. “It’s that kind of energy that makes everyone love him.”

Cabrera robs hitters, nails runners, drives the ball to all fields, and circles the bases like he’s being chased by a pack of hungry wolves.

Javier smiled and clapped his hands and shouted:

“He’s High Energy!”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Just Getting Started

Javier from Walton Avenue had his face buried in a book on the 2 train this morning.

“No newspaper?” someone asked.

“I’ve already read it,” Javier shot without even looking up.

“I woke up early and went down to Carl’s newsstand on 149th Street,” Javier explained. “I got the paper and went through everything – the quotes from the players and how Derek’s wrist is feeling – and then I tossed it in the trash.

“It’s yesterday’s news,” he continued. “It wasn’t good, but it’s just one game and it’s already in the past. It’s done, it’s finished, it’s over.”

Javier smiled and turned the page in his book.

“This season, however, is just getting started.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Right T-Shirt

Everyone needs the right T-shirt in the Bronx.

Plenty of people stick with the classic Derek Jeter: NY on the front, Jeter 2 on the back. Joba Chamberlain has a couple of designs: The traditional: Joba Rules and the trendy: Joba The Hutt. Melky Cabrera is always popular because what’s more perfect on a T-shirt than: Got Melky?

The white-on-blue style works for Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera and Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui and Chien-Ming Wang and Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu and Robinson Cano.

My friend Marcus always wears one of the Humberto Sanchez – number 77 – T-shirts that he sells on uptown 2 trains before games.

Jon from Highbridge has an Andy Pettitte shirt that’s been washed so many times that the 46 is almost worn off.

Javier from Walton Avenue usually wears one with a cartoon moose that has a number 35 for antlers on days the Mike Mussina pitches, but today he made a different choice.

“I adjusted the laundry rotation to make sure my Alex Rodriguez shirt was clean,” Javier explained. “I’m sure that Moose will appreciate the choice because it should give him some more runs to work with.”

A classic Rodriguez 13 is the right T-shirt for tonight.

Monday, May 19, 2008

On The Railing

Lamar, who watches every game from the bleachers, hung on the railing outside the players’ gate last night. The metal barricades are used to contain fans, but they offered something to lean on after a tough loss.

“I’m hangin’ around to support the guys,” Lamar explained. “The Captain was on the railing at the top step of the dugout pulling for his teammates in the ninth inning. He never gives up and I don’t either.”

Lamar slumped heavily on the railing as the players trickled out of Yankee Stadium. He was disappointed by the score, but offered only encouragement to his team.

“Hang in there,” he shouted to Robinson Cano.

“Nice catch,” he shot at Melky Cabrera.

“Big home run,” he yelled to Hideki Matsui. “Keep it up.”

“We’ll get ‘em next time,” he fired at Chien-Ming Wang.

Lamar had only one word for Jeter.

“Tuesday,” he yelled.

Jeter nodded and waved.

Lamar smiled and pushed off the railing.

“That’s all the support I need,” he said. “We’re gonna win on Tuesday.”

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Where Baseball Lives

Baseball walked up the stairs in Section 3. He was 9 years old and worn a Derek Jeter jersey and a Yankees hat. Plastic tubes snaked up his back and over his shoulder and into his nose. His father followed with an oxygen tank.

The climb was slow and there were stops to turn and look into the heart of Yankee Stadium.

Two steps and a glance at the field where the boy has seen highlight clips of Mickey Mantle’s homers and Reggie Jackson’s and Yogi Berra’s, too. He has seen the footage of Jeter’s shot that helped beat Baltimore in 1996 and David Justice’s drive that finished Seattle in 2001.

Three steps and a turn to look at where Tino Martinez’s ninth-inning home run landed in game four of the 2001 World Series and then over to deep left where Scott Brosius’s blast landed the next night.

Two more steps and a long stare at the mound. Don Larsen threw a World Series perfect game from there and David Wells and David Cone tossed their perfectos from the same spot.

Another three steps and a look at the boy’s first baseball moment: A shot by Aaron Boone that sent the Yankees to the 2003 World Series.

Three more steps and the boy was at his seat and hoping for a win. He has learned that you don’t always get what you want.

But he’ll be back with renewed hope and his Jeter jersey and Yankees hat and tubes and oxygen tank because this is where baseball lives.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Still Here

Rain was everywhere in the Bronx last night.

It slipped under collars and soaked through hats. The wind blew it under the roof and into the upper deck and it collected in puddles in the aisles and corridors of Yankee Stadium.

It was the same across River Avenue at Ball Park Lanes where Earl from Harlem leaned against the counter and brushed the rain from his coat.

“You can’t let the weather bother you,” he said. “It’s always gonna be here and so am I. Well, until I die.”

Earl smiled and reached into his pocket for the torn page of a poetry book.

“Langston Hughes,” he announced. “This one is called: Still Here.”

“I’ve been scared and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me, sun has baked me.
Looks like between ‘em
They done tried to make me
Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’–
But I don’t care!
I’m still here!”

Earl folded the page and slipped it back in his pocket.

“I’ll still be here tomorrow,” he said. “And the next day and the next day and the next day, too. Baseball comes every day just like the weather.”

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stick It Out

The 5 train was running on the 7th Avenue line early this morning. It got Jon from the Bronx to his job on the Westside, but it didn’t feel quite right.

“I’m just more comfortable on the 2 train,” he explained. “The 2 train is Derek Jeter. The 5 train is Joe DiMaggio. I’ve got nothing against DiMaggio, but I’m not old enough to have seen him play. I’ll stick with Jeter and the 2.”

Jon is also sticking with his baseball team.

“I have heard all the grumbling about the Yankees,” he said. “I’ve even done some grumbling myself, but I know the guys are playing hard and that’s all I expect.

“Things always even up,” Jon continued. “The breaks will come and the hits will fall if you stick it out with the team.”

Jon smiled and shrugged.

“People in the Bronx know all about having to stick it out.”

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bronx Etiquette

Javier pumped his fist in the Bronx last night.

He sat at the television in his one-bedroom apartment and gave a fist pump after Melky Cabrera threw out Cliff Floyd at third base to end the second inning. Morgan Ensberg slapped the tag on Floyd and pumped his fist, too.

Then Javier rose from the chair and pumped his fist when Joba Chamberlain struck out B.J. Upton to preserve a one-run lead in the eighth. Jose Molina caught Chamberlain’s blazing fastball and also pumped his fist.

Chamberlain walked calmly off the mound because there are a lot of people who don’t think he should pump his fist. Those people don’t know much about baseball and they know even less about the Bronx.

“It’s like a bunch of rich golfers are running the world,” Javier said on the 2 train this morning. “They make up their own special etiquette and nothing more than a pattering golf clap and a muted “Bravo,” using a British accent is allowed.

“Everyone in the Bronx appreciates them weighing in from the country club,” Javier continued. “But they should stick to their putts and plaid pants and leave baseball to us.”

Javier smiled and pumped his fist as the 2 train rumbled under the Harlem River into Manhattan.

“That one was for the big win last night,” he explained. “It’s really the only etiquette you need in my neighborhood.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Haze hung in the Bronx this morning. It was barely noticeable to some, but it weighted heavily on the guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart.

“That was a rough game last night,” someone said.

“It was a tough loss,” someone else shot.

Everyone nodded and the haze settled in.

Javier from Walton Avenue walked up and ordered his coffee.

“A regular with two sugars, please.”

He turned and peeled the lid off his paper cup and did his best Mariano Rivera impression.

“That’s baseball,” Javier said with a shrug. “You can’t get down about it. We have to come back and get ‘em tonight.”

The haze started to lift.

“A win would clear this up,” someone said.

They all nodded.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Confession

I will start with a confession: I pump my fist.

I also clap my hands. I cheer from the first pitch until the last out and then usually hang around the players’ gate and cheer some more.

Baseball is emotional for those who live in walk-up apartments and ride crowded trains and work second and third jobs to save money for tickets and scorecards and T-shirts that say: Joba Rules.

Sometimes the game makes us smile and it always gives us hope.

Joba Chamberlain gives us hope, too. We find it in his smile and his fastball and his fist pump.

Some people don’t like any of that. They think Joba should feel the way they tell him to feel and act the way they tell him to act.

But baseball players aren’t made in factories or pulled from dusty old record books. They are people with hopes and fears and dreams and feelings. They are just like everyone else in a lot of ways, but they’re special because they make the rest of us feel a little bit better on summer days and nights.

Sometimes they make us feel so good that we pump our fist.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Wet Day

Kevin woke up to rain pounding off his apartment window on Gerard Avenue. He quickly splashed some water on his face and brushed his teeth before starting to pack the Yankee T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats that he sells down on 14th Street.

Everything is usually hauled on a small cart in a taped-up cardboard box, but changes have to be made for the weather.

“Business will be slow today,” Kevin explained. “There’s no sense in carrying stuff that I’ll just have to carry back.”

The pared-down merchandise was stuffed into two black garbage bags that were knotted together and slung over Kevin’s shoulder like saddlebags. The aluminum folding table was roped over his other shoulder as he headed downtown.

“Some people just stay home on days like this,” Kevin explained. “I probably won’t make much, but it’s better than nothing.

“And maybe I’ll get lucky,” he continued. “There could be a patch of clear weather this afternoon or maybe a lot of people will get soaked and want to change into Derek Jeter T-shirts.”

Kevin laughed.

“That probably won’t happen,” he admitted. “But it never rains inside (Tropicana Field) so I’ll be able to watch the Yankees at Tampa Bay tonight. That’s enough to get me through a wet day.”

Sunday, May 11, 2008


There is a new neighborhood taking shape in the Bronx. Some say it’s near Highbridge and others think it’s closer to Mott Haven and some even believe it’s climbing straight out of Concourse Village.

Everyone agrees on the name.

“Rasnerville,” shot Javier, who lives on Walton Avenue. “It’s an up-and-coming area.”

Darrell Rasner’s rotation-stabilizing 2-0 record and 3.00 ERA – including yesterday’s 5-2 win in Detroit – have sparked interest in the neighborhood.

“The streets will be full of yuppies pretty soon,” Javier said. “They will want to turn our one-bedroom walk-ups into luxury condos and make Rasnerville into the new Eastside.”

That won’t be easy.

“We’re not going down without a fight,” Javier promised. “People around here are a lot like Rasner: tough, determined, courageous and maybe a little stubborn, too.”

That’s a winning attitude.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Always Hopeful

Whitey greeted everyone on the street this morning.

“She’s making the rounds,” said the man with her. “No one gets by without saying hello.”

Whitey is a 12-year-old Golden Retriever.

“But she is a Yankee first and foremost,” said the man. “She sat quietly early in last night’s game, but she was excited and waging her tail during the ninth-inning rally.

“Today’s game already has her excited,” the man continued. “We’d better keep moving because there are a lot more people to greet before we can go home and get ready for the first pitch.”

Whitey’s hopes ride with Darrell Rasner and the rest of the Yankees.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Without Permit

I was standing at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 125th Street on Wednesday afternoon. There were a lot of people around because there are always a lot of people in New York City. The police came up and told us to leave because we didn’t have a permit.

I was surprised because I’ve never had a permit to be on a sidewalk and I’m on them all the time.

Mostly I walk, but sometimes I just stand if I’m meeting someone or reading the newspaper or waiting to cross the street. I sit on the sidewalk if I'm tired and have even slept on them while waiting in line for baseball tickets. I’ve never had a permit for any of this.

I don’t carry many official documents – just my Yankees Season-Ticket ID card and a MetroCard and a library card and a SABR card and an ACLU membership card – but I figure I should have this sidewalk permit.

I’ve inquired with several city agencies, but none of them have any information.

If I happen to find the people that issue these permits they will probably need me to prove that I’m competent to be on a sidewalk. I can walk in a reasonably straight line and don’t change directions abruptly or stop suddenly for no reason so I’m confident that I can pass any test they give me.

But for now I’m just an undocumented walker in New York City. If you see me running then you’ll know the police are on to me.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Street Justice

People were looking for justice on the streets of New York yesterday. They looked uptown and downtown and in Brooklyn and around Yankee Stadium, too.

They were trying to bring attention to the acquittal of three New York City Police Department detectives who were charged in the shooting that killed Sean Bell and wounded Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield.

It’s always the same story in neighborhoods like Jamaica and Crown Heights and Harlem and Mott Haven: The police keep shooting and innocent people keep dying and the Mayor and the Police Commissioner and too many New Yorkers don’t seem to care.

Al Sharpton – the only leader who stands up for everyone – led the protests.

“If you are not going to lock up the guilty in this town, then I guess you’ll have to lock up the innocent,” he said.

The NYPD has no trouble locking up the innocent just like they have no trouble intimidating the innocent and beating the innocent and shooting the innocent.

Over 100 people were arrested for trying to bring a measure of justice to this city.

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just person is also a prison,” Henry David Thoreau once wrote.

There was no justice on the streets yesterday, but the police locked up a lot of just people.

That’s business as usual for the NYPD.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bounce Back

Joba Chamberlain left Yankee Stadium with the same bounce in his step that he entered with several hours earlier. He will return with the same bounce today.

That’s the best thing he could do after surrendering an eighth-inning lead on David Dellucci’s three-run homer.

“There’s no pitcher that hasn’t gone through that process,” said Mariano Rivera after last night’s loss to Cleveland. “Everybody goes through it. The biggest thing is how you bounce back.”

Rivera smiled.

“Joba is going to be fine.”

Chamberlain doesn’t have to look for answers. He can get them from Rivera and Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina and LaTroy Hawkins.

“Now he knows what baseball will do to you,” Hawkins told Peter Abraham of the Journal News. “If he’s smart, he’ll never forget it. That right there is part of the job.”

And baseball – for all its promise of money and fame – is a hard job. The toughest men have to keep a bounce in their step to survive.

Chamberlain will bounce back to the ballpark in just a few hours.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

First Pitch

Jon from Highbridge slumped in his seat on the 2 train this morning.

“A day off sucks the joy out of life,” he said. “There was nothing to watch yesterday and nothing to talk about today. Once you get in the daily groove of following the team it’s a little unsettling when there’s not much happening.”

Things get back to normal tonight in the Bronx.

“I can’t wait for the first pitch,” Jon explained. “Anything is possible at the start of every game. There could be a no-hitter or a perfect game. And there will always be great plays and clutch hits and big pitches.

“Winning is the most important thing,” he continued. “Losing knocks you down, but you can’t wait to go get ‘em the next day.”

Jon paused and smiled.

“That’s what life is all about.”

Monday, May 5, 2008


One morning: The air was cool and damp, but everyone could feel the promise.

One afternoon: Darrell Rasner stepped out of the dugout and into the sun almost a year after a hard-hit grounder broke his finger and ended his season.

One pitch: Adrian Beltre smacked a two-run homer to give the Mariners a first-inning lead.

One comeback: Rasner retired seven of the next eight hitters and waited for his team to score.

One inning: Everything unfolded neatly in the bottom of the third and opened up the game. Johnny Damon led off with a single and Derek Jeter sent him to third with another single. Bobby Abreu scored Damon with a base hit and Hideki Matsui drove in Jeter with a double. Then Jason Giambi pushed across Abreu with a deep drive to left. Melky Cabrera cleaned up the bases with a two run homer and Robinson Cano polished it off with a homer of his own.

One strikeout: Rasner threw a fastball under Jeff Clement’s hands in the fourth with a runner on third and one out. That big swing and miss made the big inning stand and was the key to a big win.

One catch: A sixth-inning double died in Damon’s glove.

One ending: Mariano Rivera stood on the mound and caught a lazy pop fly.

One evening: The air turned back cool, but the promise remained.

One day off: They are nice after a win and even better after three in a row.

One more game: Andy Pettitte starts on Tuesday and the Bronx always rests easily with the thought of the big lefty taking the ball.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Father Time

Robinson Cano is struggling. He just can’t seem to break through the slump that’s weighed him down since Opening Day.

There have been hints of change. The pinch-hit homer in Tampa Bay last month seemed like a good start and so did the two-run shot against Detroit this past week, but he still hasn’t found the consistency that’s made him a career .303 hitter in the big leagues.

“Robbie’s getting close,” Joe Girardi said yesterday. “I like his approach and he’s hitting the ball hard.”

I am sure Cano listens to his manager and the rest of the coaches, but his best advice may be coming from home.

“I’m lucky to have my father,” Cano said. “We talk on the phone every day and he tells me to keep working. He always says that the hits will come in bunches. That makes me feel better. I think it’s coming soon.”

I bet his father agrees.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Tai-Wang Forever

The country of Tai-Wang set up along Ruppert Place in the Bronx last night.

Cindy held the flag – which features a huge picture of Chien-Ming Wang – high over her head and urged on the crowd.

“Who’s the best?” she yelled.

“Wang! Wang! Wang!” everyone roared.

They did it over and over and over again.

“Wang is so important to us,” Cindy explained. “He is the greatest player from Taiwan and that makes us proud.”

She waved the flag and started again:

“Who’s the best?”

“Wang! Wang! Wang!”

Wang finally walked out of the Stadium and waved with the right hand that held down the Seattle Mariners in the Yankees 5-1 victory. The residents of Tai-Wang sent up a cheer that was loud enough to hear back in Taiwan.

“He’s the best,” Cindy said. “Absolutely the best. Positively the best.”

She flashed a huge smile.

“Did you see him waving at me?” she asked. “He was really waving at me.”

Waving the hand that’s produced a 6-0 record and a 3.00 ERA. The leader of a team and a league and a game and a city and a whole country.

Tai-Wang Forever.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Deal Maker

Jon had finished reading his newspaper by the time the 2 train cut under the Harlem River into Manhattan. He folded and tucked it neatly under his arm before laying out the deal.

“I’ll give anything for a win,” he said.

“Anything?” someone asked. “You would offer anything for just one win?”

“Why not?” Jon offered. “The players lay it all out there every day. They are beat up and frustrated, but they’re playing hard.

“They are showing the determination that I expect,” Jon continued. “I owe them the same in return.”

“You’re right,” someone admitted. “Everyone should give what they expect.”

“So it’s a deal?” Jon asked.

“It’s a deal,” someone agreed.

Jon smiled.

“I’m in the bleachers tonight,” he said. “Let’s help ‘em get a win.”

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Javier from Walton Avenue tugged on my elbow as I was totaling my scorecard outside the players’ gate last night.

“There isn’t much to write down,” he said. “The game kinda got away from us and we couldn’t get it back. It’s disappointing, but we’ll get ‘em tomorrow.”

“Everything will be better tomorrow,” I said.

Javier nodded.

“That’s what keeps us going,” he said. “By tomorrow we’ll be closer to our next win than our last loss.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Tomorrow…”