Monday, December 22, 2008

Off-Season Surgery

I am scheduled for off-season surgery tomorrow. I will be in the hospital for 10 days and out of action for a few weeks. I have already faced cancer with my father and my mother. Baseball was there for me both times. I wrote about that over at Bronx Banter.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

They Never Ask

Nobody ever asks what I think. But I went ahead and told the guys on the corner of Gerard Avenue and East 157th Street anyway. Since I didn’t get punched it was okay to write it all down at Bronx Banter.

Any Price

The word on the street is all about big arms and big bats. CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett will help anchor a strong rotation and Manny Ramirez may come to the Bronx where he has done so much damage for the other side.

“Manny bashing homers for us would be great,” said a man on Broadway this afternoon. “I would call that poetic justice.”

And justice is worth any price.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Struggling Forward

Life is hard for a lot of people these days. There are no jobs and those without a paycheck are quickly without a home. It’s probably not going to get better anytime soon, but the Yankees are loading up for a run at the World Series. Last night I talked to a man who is struggling, but is also looking forward to a great baseball summer. The story is over at Bronx Banter.

Friday, December 19, 2008


I bought all the newspapers this morning: The New York Times, the Daily News, the New York Post and Newsday. It cost a bundle – three dollars in all – but it was worth is for the wall-to-wall coverage of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Great Day

Even bad days can offer something.

This was one I would usually pass off as a loss and look forward to a better tomorrow, but CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett were introduced in the Bronx and that made everything alright.

Yeah, this was a great day to be a Yankees fan.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Better Days

Better days are coming for my friend Karl with a K. He thinks better days are coming for all Yankees. I agree. The story is over on Bronx Banter.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bet Your Life

There is a guy from the Bronx who bets his heart and his soul and his life on the Yankees. The story is on Bronx Banter.

Monday, December 15, 2008


The Yankees seem determined to remember all of us this holiday season. A couple of guys talked it over on Bronx Banter.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Ian Kennedy found his curveball in Puerto Rico. I met an old man in the Bronx who lost one there many years ago. The story is over at Bronx Banter.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Toe the Line

Yankees fans toe the line between love and hate. Mark me down as being clearly on the love side for A.J. Burnett. My story is over on Bronx Banter.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Things are coming together in the Bronx. The rotation is shaping up nicely and it’s going to be a beautiful baseball summer.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Derek Jeter – the man who means everything in the Bronx – is the master of saying nothing.

This is what he told reporters about CC Sabathia during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

“If this were to happen [since the deal isn’t finalized], it would be a great first step.”

He gives the media nothing and they have to like because everyone in this neighborhood loves The Captain.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Money Maker

The finest baseball minds in the Bronx are talking about the CC Sabathia deal and one man is making money on it. Hear what Juan Carlos has to say and what he serves the guys over at Bronx Banter.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Safe At Home

Alex Rodriguez may be a target in the rest of the country, but he is safe at home in the Bronx. The whole story is on Bronx Banter.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bridge Work

I took a walk across the 145th Street Bridge and got a new view of an old friend. The story is over at Bronx Banter.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

World Series Gods

My friend Jose Calero received a sign from the baseball gods. It points to a World Series victory for the Yankees. I covered this religious experience over at Bronx Banter.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Job Loss

Jobs are nearly impossible to find these days so people are doing everything to hold onto what they have. This was just one daring move in the Bronx that I wrote about over on Banter.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Library Card

A library card gave me the world. “The World of Jimmy Breslin,” “The World According to Breslin” and “Nobody Asked Me, But… The World of Jimmy Cannon.”

I checked the Cannon book out of the library about a hundred times and probably paid more in fines than it would have cost to buy it. I was determined to master his style of one-liner columns. I have tried many times and never come close, but that doesn’t stop me from trying again and again.

I took my latest shot over at Bronx Banter.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blog That

Some of the guys who gather around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart tried to get rid of a grump by turning him into a blogger. It seems to have worked. Check out the story at Bronx Banter.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Times Are Changing

The New York Times is the best newspaper in this country, but it’s not as good as it used to be. I took a swing at them on Bronx Banter because I care.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


My friend Javier is always getting himself into trouble. Luckily he knows how to get himself out, too. I wrote about his latest over at Bronx Banter.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Music Of The Game

A baseball tune came to me last night. Give it a listen over at Bronx Banter.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Nice Visit

Some people were visiting New York City over the weekend. Everyone got a lot out of it over at Bronx Banter.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bag Man

Making money is the name of the game here in America. A guy they call Mr. Quick shows how it’s done in New York City. I have his story at Bronx Banter.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Shopping For Justice

A bit of justice played out on the busiest shopping day of the year. The whole story is on Bronx Banter.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Working Days

It is never a holiday for everyone. I wrote one of a million stories about workers on this Thanksgiving. I’m laboring over at Bronx Banter these days.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Right Time

Time is what each person makes of it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Secret Of Youth

I met a man who stays young on the 2 train. The story is over at Bronx Banter.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Winter Blues

People are still trying to find their way through the long winter in the Bronx. The worst part is that it’s really just getting started. I wrote about one view at Bronx Banter today.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Bronx Boss

The Boss is a man of many faces, but they are all loved in the Bronx. I wrote about the best owner in baseball at Bronx Banter today.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Working For A Living

Workers are feeling the pinch, but they haven’t lost their ingenuity or their determination or there sense of humor. I ran into one of them on the 2 train and put his story on Bronx Banter.

Friday, November 21, 2008


I was having trouble with a story for Bronx Banter and my friend Michael Allen made it work. Good editors are hard to find. Good writers are even harder to find. Michael is both.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Face On The 2 Train

Every situation is hard to imagine until you’re faced with it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quick Eats

A curbside breakfast and some baseball talk filled me up this morning.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lessons On The Truth

I wrote the truth today. Langston Hughes showed me how. An instructor at City College showed him. That was back when people without much money could still go to City College. We’ll get back there again.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Darrell Rasner made a difficult decision last week. The hardest part may be living with the fact that he’ll never know if it was the right one.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Moving Up

Everyone hopes that CC Sabathia will do great things for the Yankees and all New Yorkers.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Best Party Ever

They put together one heck of a party on the Westside of Manhattan last Saturday.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Emotional Day

The first day of free agency was filled with emotions in the South Bronx.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tough Times

Things are getting tough for New Yorkers and everyone else.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


It was payback time at the barbershop and I was able to hold my own.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Father’s Honor

My father told lots of stories from his days in the Air Force. I wrote one of them down on this Veterans’ Day at Bronx Banter. I also included a couple of stories about soldiers and baseball from this summer.

Monday, November 10, 2008


The guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart were worried about the weather this morning.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lessons For Leaders

Major League managers get lots of lessons. Charlie Manuel got one in Japan that may have helped him lead the Phillies to a World Series title.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


A hopeful ride on the 2 train made my Saturday.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Best

The best memories will live forever in the Bronx.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Undisputed Champion

Taking on the barbershop crew is always a losing proposition. Alexi proved again to be the winner and undisputed champion.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

All Of Us

Yesterday belonged to Barack Obama. He will make sure that the rest of the days belong to all of us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Part Of Something

A lot of people stood in line today. They came out to be a part something. I hope everyone was there.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Fear lives in the Bronx these days. It walks the streets and rides the trains. It’s in the bodegas and the diners and it was also in Joyce Kilmer Park recently.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


There is always something happening on the 2 train.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Big Deals

Halloween is a big deal in New York City. Maybe that’s because everything seems like a big deal around here. Or maybe it’s because Mariano Rivera rides the 2 train to the parade.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Holiday Story

It always comes back to The Captain in the Bronx.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lessons In Journalism

I once worked for an editor who always said:

“Short words are better than long words. Short sentences are better than long sentences. Short paragraphs are better than long paragraphs. Short stories are better than long stories. And you show nothing but contempt for the reader if you make them pick up a dictionary. You are a journalist, not a vocabulary teacher.”

Everyone didn’t get that speech.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The 2 Train

I still get most of my stories on the 2 train.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Small Crowd

The Bronx isn’t as crowed as it was last week and there’s nothing good about that.

The whole story is at Bronx Banter today.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Love And Baseball

There is a story about love and baseball over at Bronx Banter today.

It’s full of a whole bunch of other stuff, too. There are kids and old men and a guy who thinks he’s pretty clever. There is someone selling tickets and everyone is doing their best.

It’s a story about life and hope in the South Bronx where so much rides on the love of baseball.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Big Blow

The rain blew sideways in Battery Park last night. Big Ken Carlton pulled his Yankees cap low and angled against the wind. His massive hands held down the folding table loaded with the Yankees T-shirts that he sells to visitors heading for the Statue of Liberty.

“The weather’s getting worse,” he yelled to his neighbors. “Let’s get out of here.”

Carlo, who was setup next to Big Ken, sells framed photos of famous New Yorkers: Derek Jeter at Yankee Stadium, John Lennon in front of the Statue of Liberty and King Kong on top of the Empire State Building. His heavy merchandise requires a large cart and with the storm closing fast everyone in the area started piling on for a quick getaway.

Big Ken packed his T-shirts, Alexis loaded boxes of foam Liberty crowns and Jose threw on two crates filled with water globes and ceramic models of Yankee Stadium.

The cart was heavy and sagged in the middle, but the four men – Big Ken, Carlo, Alexis and Jose – got it rolling through the park. A gust of wind gave it a big push at the mouth of Pearl Street and Carlo jumped on for the ride.

He flew through Whitehall and on toward Broad as the rest of the guys raced to catch up. They found Carlo collecting boxes after the wind blown cart crashed into a construction barrier.

“Are you okay?” they all asked.

“That was a helluva ride,” Carlo yelled. “Let’s go back and try it again.”

“You’re crazy,” they all said.

Carlo nodded and smiled.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Watch Stories

The 2 train was running local this morning, but Marcus from Jerome Avenue didn’t seem to mind.

“I’m just enjoying the ride,” he explained. “The beauty of Saturdays is that there’s no rush to get to work because everyone else is sleeping in anyway.”

Marcus sells watches in Battery Park.

“I know it sounds shady,” Marcus said, “but really it’s not. My watches look like a Rolex and they work even better. The best part is that they’re only 20 bucks.”

And Marcus slips a story in with every watch.

“Most of the people are going to see the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island,” Marcus said. “They are visiting the city and want more than a watch to take home with them.”

Marcus smiled and winked.

“I give ‘em all a good story,” he said. “I like to tell ‘em about the time I saw Jeter outside Lincoln Center or A-Rod walking on 59th Street near Mickey Mantle’s place. If they want my best story I show ‘em the napkin that Johnny Damon signed when he was eating at a pizza joint on Stone Street.

“I’ve also got stories about the Mets,” Marcus continued. “I once saw Carlos Delgado in Midtown, but I didn’t say anything. I saw Pedro too and I said something, but it wasn’t very nice.”

“Your stories about the Yankees are better,” someone said.

“That’s just the way it is with me,” Marcus admitted. “I have a good story about seeing Charlie Sheen on Broadway and he was wearing a Yankees hat.”

Marcus stopped for a moment and then asked:

“Hey, are you gonna buy a watch or what?”

Friday, October 24, 2008

More With Less

Everyone in the Bronx is doing more with less.

Juan Carlos woke up early this morning – 4:30 a.m. – and started baking.

“I hate putting my hands in dough,” Juan Carlos explained, “but things are tough all over.”

He still picked up a small bakery order – a few donuts, muffins and bagels – but there was a new sign taped to his coffee cart when customers arrived:

Large Coffee & Apple Square $1

“What’s an apple square?” someone asked.

“It’s just dough, apples and sugar,” Juan Carlos said.

The man checked the sign again.

“Okay,” he said. “For a buck I’ll take a large coffee and try an apple square.”

The man took a bite.

“This is pretty good,” he said, “but it looks too plain. Why don’t you cut them in the shape of a baseball diamond?”

Juan Carlos shook his head.

“Just turn it,” he said. “A square is a diamond.”

“Oh yeah,” the man said laughing at himself. “Then you should call them something like: Apple Baseball Diamonds. It’s all about marketing with these things.”

Juan Carlos shot the man a look and said:

“Just eat your damn apple square!”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

City Secrets

New York is full of secrets. They are on the streets and in the trains and they do the hard work that keeps this city moving.

Miguel Aquino is one of New York’s secrets. He left the Bronx apartment he shares with seven others at 6:00 a.m. There was a quick stop for a newspaper before catching the 2 train. He found a seat in the back corner of the last car, pulled his Yankees cap low and started through the paper as the train worked its way under the Harlem River and down Manhattan’s westside.

Aquino gave his seat to a woman at 42nd Street because the train was full. He stood in the corner and kept his eyes on the paper.

Aquino wasn’t looking for the stock reports or even the score of last night’s World Series opener. He was trying to become invisible because that’s the key to his survival.

He hauls steel and concrete for a fancy new building in SoHo that will provide homes for millionaires. When it’s finished, Aquino will move on to the next hard job that needs to be done. His eyes will always stay buried in a newspaper because he doesn’t want any trouble in a city and a country that gives people like him nothing but trouble.

That is our dirtiest secret.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Piece Of The Pie

Jason Blevins showed interest in something other than baseball this morning. He bought the newspaper and settled in at the back of the 2 train to get the latest details on the presidential campaign.

He was most interested in the pie story. There has been talk about big pies and little pies and growing pies and shrinking pies. And then there were all the pieces: More pieces and less pieces and bigger pieces and smaller pieces.

“I don’t even know what kind of pie they’re talking about,” Blevins said. “I like cream pies – banana cream and coconut cream – but fruit pies are better. Apple is my favorite.”

Blevins laughed to himself.

“Maybe they’re talking about pizza pies,” he said. “There’s that old Yogi Berra story about the time he ordered a pizza and the waitress asked: ‘How many pieces do you want your pie cut into?’ So Yogi said: ‘Four because I don’t think I can eat eight.’”

Blevins shook his head.

“It always comes back to baseball with me, doesn’t it?”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Moving Train

Barack Obama – a Chicago White Sox fan – stood in front of a huge crowd at George M. Steinbrenner Field – the Spring Training home of the New York Yankees – with the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays.

“I’ve said from the beginning that I am a unity candidate,” Obama explained yesterday. “When you see a White Sox fan showing some love to the Rays, and the Rays showing some love back, you know we’re on to something right here.”

David Price, who closed out Boston on Sunday night, introduced Obama as: “The next President of the United States.” He later said that Obama is: “Definitely an icon right now and probably will be for a long time.”

Price was joined by Fernando Perez, Jonny Gomes, Carl Crawford, Edwin Jackson and Cliff Floyd.

Ballplayers don’t often take sides outside the game. Michael Jordan declined to weigh in on the racially-charged 1990 North Carolina Senate race between Jesse Helms and Harvey Gantt. Jordan explained that: “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Jordan certainly had a point and no one blamed him for staying out of the fight back then.

But historian and activist Howard Zinn likes to say: “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”

It was nice to see some baseball players on the same train with the rest of us yesterday.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Derek Jeter brings hope to the Bronx.

The guys gathered at Juan Carlos’s coffee cart this morning went on about his style and his smile and his skip and The Flip. They talked about his determination and his talent and his heroics. But mostly they marveled at his loyalty and compassion.

“Derek is the absolute best,” said Javier from Walton Avenue. “He makes his teammates better players and he makes us better people. We all believe in ourselves and each other because of him.”

Everyone nodded and smiled.

This conversation came from the news that Jeter spent part of the weekend in Texas and went to a football game with Roger Clemens. There are some people who think Jeter should avoid Clemens like so many others do these days.

But that’s never been Jeter’s style.

When the whole world was down a Jason Giambi a few winters ago it was Jeter who traveled to Las Vegas to visit him.

Jeter never forgets his teammates and always stands up for his friends. He is the person we all want to be and the friend we all need.

“That’s why he’s The Captain,” Javier told the guys. “He’s the most special player any of us will ever see. He gives us hope even before he picks up a bat or a glove.”


Sunday, October 19, 2008

What They Want

Big Ken Carlton caught the 2 train at Freeman Street this morning. He threw on his over-stuffed backpack and quickly loaded a folding table, half-a-dozen large boxes and a plastic tarp before the doors closed.

He rode to West 96th Street and then moved everything across the platform and onto the 1 train.

“You gotta be fast,” Big Ken explained. “The train will leave with half your stuff if you’re too slow.”

Big Ken has never lost anything.

“Fear gives me my speed,” he said. “I’m afraid of not being able to pay the rent and not having anything to eat. Losing any of my merchandise would put me out of business for sure.”

Big Ken’s business is selling T-shirts and hats to people headed for the Statue of Liberty.

“They like everything with the tall lady on it,” Big Ken said. “That’s all I used to sell, but people were always asking me about my Yankees hat. They wanted to know where they could buy one.

“So I started bringing some with me,” he continued. “Now I sell more Yankees stuff than I do Liberty. It’s all about giving the people what they want.”

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Back Home

Marco Fiore came to New York looking for his home.

His grandfather came more than 60 years ago, but didn’t stay long.

“He couldn’t find good jobs,” Fiore explained. “He struggled to get by for a few years and then went back to Italy. But he always wanted to return and make it in America.”

His grandfather never made it back and his father never came either. But young Marco put his name on a list and one day he got a letter saying he could come to America.

“It was always my dream,” he said. “My family didn’t want me to go, but I was never scared because I knew this place would feel like home.”

His grandfather told him the stories. He heard about the trains and the bridges and the big ships in New York Harbor and all about the Lower Eastside. And he learned about Joe DiMaggio and the New York Yankees, too.

“I didn’t know anything about baseball,” Fiore admitted. “My grandfather never explained the game, but he would go on and on about the Yankees and it was always: DiMaggio, DiMaggio, DiMaggio.”

Fiore carried all the stories to New York.

“The first thing I did was walk my grandfather’s old neighborhood,” Fiore explained. “The whole thing was mapped in my head: Mott Street and Mulberry Street and Grand Street and Broome Street and Canal Street.

“Then I got on a train and went Yankee Stadium,” Fiore continued. “I couldn’t believe I was really in the same place where my grandfather saw DiMaggio. That’s when I knew I was really home.”

DiMaggio died during Fiore’s first year in New York (1999). The Yankees wore number 5 on their sleeves in his honor and Fiore went to all the games.

“I learned about baseball,” Fiore said. “And now I love it so much. I will always remember my grandfather’s stories about DiMaggio, but for me it’s: Jeter, Jeter, Jeter.”

Fiore smiled.

“Those are my stories.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bad Medicine

My friend Javier never does what he’s told.

A doctor once warned him about a heart murmur and said that he should slow down a bit. Javier started taking two steps at a time on the way up to his fifth floor apartment on Walton Avenue.

The doctor also told him to cut down on the five-cheese omelets and cheeseburgers from the Crown Diner. And he told him to layoff chocolate donuts and coffee and cigars, too.

“Why don’t you just kill me now?” Javier snapped.

The doctor said that Javier would die for sure if he didn’t have a certain operation. He also said that Javier would need to avoid excitement during his recovery.

“What do you get excited about?” the doctor asked.

“My Yankees,” Javier said.

“Then you won’t be able to watch baseball for awhile,” the doctor said.

“What a quack,” Javier said as he was leaving.

That was more than five years ago.

“I’d probably be dead if I had that operation,” Javier was saying just the other day. “Now I eat what I want and do what I want and yell for the Yankees as loud as I want. But I do have less aggravation because I don’t have to deal with that doctor.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Other Side

Three boys were walking on East 149th Street near where it meets Melrose Avenue and Third Avenue in the Bronx. The morning traffic was thick, trucks were double parked and deliverymen hustled boxes to the curb.

The boys made a move through the congestion and across Melrose. They had a near miss with a speeding car, but reach the other side safely.

They were ready to try their luck against Third Avenue when a gravely voice made them turn.

“Be careful,” an old man said.

The boys nodded and laughed.

“Sure, old man,” they all said.

“I didn’t get to be this old by running through traffic,” the old man shot.

The boys laughed again.

“You’re a ballplayer aren’t you?” the old man said nodding at the tallest one. “I’ve seen you pitch. You’ve got a good fastball and a pretty good curveball.”

“I’ve got a great curveball,” the boy snapped. “It’s a hammer.”

“Keeping working on your hammer,” the old man said. “And get to the other side safely.”

“Sure, old man,” the boys said as they waited for the light to turn and traffic to stop.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Just Like Derek Jeter

An 8-year-old boy rests against his mother’s arm on an early-morning 2 train. His oversized Yankees cap slides over his eyes as he drifts off to sleep.

His mother is too worried to sleep.

She has two jobs: The first is at a diner on Chambers Street and the second is cleaning offices in Midtown. In between she has to get the boy to school and then back home where he stays with neighbors until she gets off close to midnight.

The boy’s father used to help, but he was killed two years ago in a Brooklyn building accident.

“My son wants to be a baseball player like Derek Jeter,” she says softly so the boy can sleep. “I tell him that he can do anything and his father will be proud.”

Other things are harder to explain.

“I am afraid of losing my jobs because business is bad,” the mother says. “My bosses tell me it might happen any day, but I don’t want my son to know because it will make him scared. I just keep telling him: ‘You’re gonna grow up to be just like Derek Jeter.’”

She straightens the boy’s Yankees cap and continues:

“That makes him smile,” she says. “And I smile, too.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Best Moments

There is an old man who stops at Juan Carlos’s coffee cart every morning. He orders a regular with two sugars and announces that this is the best moment of his life.

The rest of the guys always laugh and the old man explains:

“I’ve survived 89 years,” he says. “There have been lots of great days, but this one feels like the best because I’m still here.”

The old man peels the lid off his cup, takes a sip and continues:

“Have I told you guys about Babe Ruth?” the old man always asks.

Everyone nods and lets him continue:

“I used to ride the train down to the Ansonia on Broadway and wait for Babe to come out. He would talk to all us kids and we’d race home to tell everyone what he said.

“I also saw him hit,” the old man likes to say. “He could really wallop ‘em.”

Someone always asks the old man about Alex Rodriguez.

“I was getting to him,” the old man snaps. “You made me skip over Gehrig and Joe D. and Whitey and Mickey and Munson and Gator and Reggie.

“You kids are always in such a hurry,” he tells the guys.

They all smile and the old man goes on:

“A-Rod is the best of all of them. He’s gonna hit a boatload of dingers and get a bunch of World Series rings.”

The old man always stops at this point. He takes a big gulp of coffee and then finishes up:

“I plan on seeing the dingers and all the World Series wins, too. Those will be the best moments of my life.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Just Like Us

The bodega door banged open and a rat darted into the afternoon rush on Gerard Avenue.

“He’s probably looking for work,” a man said.

“Rats are never out of work in this city,” someone shot.

“They’re gonna be tearing down the old Yankee Stadium,” the man explained. “That will put a lot of ‘em out on the streets.”

“They’ll just move over to the new Stadium,” someone fired back.

“There’s nothing to eat in the new place,” the man said. “Nobody has dumped any popcorn or dropped any peanuts or left any of those big pretzels under the seats.

“The rats will get moved into the new Stadium for Opening Day,” the man continued. “But first they gotta make it through the winter just like us.”

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Knocking It Out

Arturo doesn’t like Sundays.

“They’re too slow,” he said. “I’m looking for some action.”

He stood behind the counter at a diner on Church Street in Manhattan. A huge mound of chopped potatoes was pushed to the corner of the grill. Egg cartons were stacked to the right and on the other side were loafs of bread and bags of rolls and sliced bagels.

The containers of bacon, ham and cheese were still in the cooler because there was no business.

“I’d be hammering out orders if this was Monday,” Arturo said. “It’s nonstop all morning and then you barely have time to get ready for the lunch crowd.”

Arturo shook his head.

“The day goes by faster when it’s busy,” he said.

Arturo got his wish when a man walked in from a construction site over on West Broadway.

The man dug a scrap of paper from his pocket and rattled off the order:

“Six egg and cheese sandwiches on rolls. Four ham, egg and cheese sandwiches on rolls. Ten orders of home fries. One ham and cheese omelet with wheat toast and one feta cheese omelet with rye toast. Also, one toasted bagel with cream cheese.”

The man checked over the list and continued:

“I need a dozen coffees total. Seven regulars with sugar. Two regulars with no sugar. One black with sugar and two blacks with no sugar. I need a small orange juice, too.

“Everything is to go,” the man added. “Got all that?”

“No problem,” Arturo said with a smile.

He spun his Yankee cap around, pulled on a make-believe catchers mask and slapped a fist into his open palm.

“I’ve been waiting for this order all morning,” Arturo said. “I’m ready to knock it out of here.”

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quiet Day

The Bronx was quiet today. The guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart didn’t have much to say and the counter at the Crown Diner was nearly silent. Even Ballpark Lanes was more about bowling than baseball this afternoon.

“There’s really nothing to do but wait,” said a man smoking on River Avenue. “We’re waiting for someone to win the American League pennant and someone to win the National League pennant and then one of them to win the World Series.

“I don’t think anyone around here cares who wins,” the man continued. “We just want the season over so we can get next season started. Then we’ll be ready to make some noise again.”

The man took a deep drag on his cigarette and said:

“I’m looking forward to that.”

Friday, October 10, 2008

Looking For Luck

My friend Javier was looking for some luck this morning. But things went sour when he stepped on the 2 train.

“I don’t believe it,” he groaned. “Some drunk puked on the train yesterday, too.”

“Wow, what are the odds of someone puking on the train?” someone shot sarcastically.

Javier smiled and sucked in the bitter smell.

“At least they hosed it out,” he said. “You take what you get sometimes. It may not be perfect, but it’s better than some people got.”

A thin smile slid across Javier’s face.

“Besides,” he said. “I’d rather save all my luck for the Yankees.”

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Lineup

Jason brushed chocolate-donut crumbs from his Robinson Cano T-shirt while waiting for the 2 train this morning.

“I’ve gotta keep it clean,” Jason explained. “A stain would mean buying a new T-shirt and I can’t afford that right now.”

“Is that your only shirt?” someone asked.

“No,” Jason answered, “but it’s the only shirt I wear on Thursdays.”

The puzzled expression launched Jason into an explanation:

“I have a different shirt for each day of the week: Jeter, Posada, Joba, A-Rod, Cano, Damon and Mariano. That’s my lineup and I stick to it.

“I always wear a Jeter shirt on Sunday because he’s the leader,” Jason continued. “Everything around here starts with him.

“Monday is Posada because he has the fire to get the work week going,” Jason went on. “Tuesday is Joba because 100 m.p.h. gas should always follow fire.”

Jason laughed to himself and kept going:

“On Wednesday – the fourth day of the week – I wear an A-Rod shirt because he’s our cleanup hitter. Thursday is Cano because he’s gonna be our best hitter one day.

“Friday is the start of the weekend,” he continued. “That’s Johnny Damon all the way. And Mariano, of course, closes things out on Saturday. Sometimes I even play ‘Enter Sandman’ at the end of the day.”

Jason smiled and wrapped it up:

“Then I do laundry.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Debate

The debate started at Juan Carlos’s coffee cart and it continued down the Grand Concourse to 149th Street and on to the 2 train.

“Mike Mussina is gonna come back and pitch next year,” said Javier from Walton Avenue. “How could he walk away after leading this staff and winning 20 games?”

“Because he wants to go out on top,” answered Jose from Jerome Avenue. “This is the perfect ending for Mussina.”

Javier threw up his hands.

“There are no perfect endings,” he shot. “Maybe you gotta be as old as me to really understand that. Mussina has had a great career and he just finished one of his best seasons. I’m sure he feels satisfied right now. He probably thinks that feeling will last the rest of his life, but it will barely make it through the winter.”

Javier shook his head.

“If anyone has got the chance to be a big leaguer for even one more day they better damn well take it,” he fired. “Walking away from something that special may not be a crime, but it should be.”

Jose had nothing to add.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sigh Of Relief

Carl was headed home after a long day, but he was still working the crowd. He prodded everyone on the 2 train for information about Mariano Rivera’s surgery.

“Everything went fine,” someone finally said. “I checked online before I left the office and the reports were that the procedure was successful and he will be ready for Spring Training.”

“That’s great news,” Carl said. “Now I can rest easy.”

One Of The Family

Carl looked worried when got on the 2 train at 125th Street this morning. He grabbed a seat and flipped through the newspaper.

“There’s no news,” he said to everyone within earshot. “How could there be no news?”

“What are you looking for?” someone asked.

“Mariano is having surgery today,” Carl explained. “I want to know when it’s scheduled for and how long it will take.

“It’s supposed to be minor,” he continued, “but I’m still anxious for news.”

Carl laughed to himself.

“I talk about Mariano like he’s part of my family,” he said. “I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s not that far off.”

Carl shook his head and went through the paper again.

“I know everything is gonna be fine,” he said. “But I just can’t believe there’s no news.”

Monday, October 6, 2008

Keeping The Faith

The guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart couldn’t look each other in the eye this morning. They gripped their steaming cups, ripped into glazed donuts and nervously toed the sidewalk.

The silence grew unbearable and Juan Carlos took action.

“Did you guys pull a bank job together?” he asked.

There was nervous laughter, but no one looked up.

“So what did all of you do this weekend?” Juan Carlos asked.

“Watched baseball,” someone muttered.

“So that’s what this is about,” Juan Carlos said. “You are guilty about pulling for another team. Who was it? Chicago? It couldn’t be Boston or Tampa Bay or the Angels, could it?”

“I wasn’t pulling for any of them,” someone snapped. “I hope they all lose.”

“But all of them can’t lose,” Juan Carlos pointed out.

“Hey,” someone fired. “You never know what can happen in this game. Anything is possible and you have to keep the faith.”

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Through The Pain

A man grabbed my arm as I worked though a cup of coffee on Seventh Avenue this morning. He wanted to talk about pain.

“I saw the Cubs go down,” he said. “I hurt for Soriano and Piniella because they were Yankees. I hurt for Cubs fans and I don’t even know one. And I hurt for Chicago and I’ve never even been there.”

The man shook his head and tightened his grip.

“Losing hurts a lot more than winning doesn’t,” he said. “I felt good for Joe Torre and Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa, but that didn’t come close to covering how bad I felt for the Cubs.”

The man shrugged and loosened his hold.

“We’ve felt some pain around here lately,” he said. “So maybe this stuff hurts us more. Or maybe it just makes us want to win more than anything.”

The man nodded and smiled.

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s it.”

Saturday, October 4, 2008


This country loves to take shots at Ralph Nader.

Maybe it’s because he changed things. He helped make our air safe to breath and our water safe to drink and our food safe to eat. He helped millions of Americans get better working conditions and better pay. And he held corporations accountable for dangerous products and criminal schemes.

Or maybe this country likes to take shots at Nader because he grew up in a Yankee corner of Connecticut and Lou Gehrig is one of his heroes.

Then again, maybe it’s just because we all couldn’t wait to lose our homes and our jobs and give more than a trillion dollars to a bunch of crooked bankers.

If this country spent more time listing to Nader and less time taking shots at him we all would have seen this coming. He has talked for years about the damage done by deregulation and corporate crime.

“For a society dedicated to equal justice under the law, you cannot have equal justice between human beings and corporations who can aggregate capital, technology, power, privileges and immunities unreachable by individuals. Corporations are not human beings. They do not vote. They do not have children. They are artificial entities. They must be our servants, not our masters.”

Well, they continue to be our masters and this week they picked our pockets, too. And in case you hadn’t heard, Ralph Nader is running for president, again. The Washington Post recently said that it wouldn’t cover his campaign because he has no chance of winning.

“Then why did they cover the Nationals?” Nader asked.

Nader was finally able to deliver a shot of his own, but I’m sure no one was listening.

The bankers and the corporate executives like it that way. They stole our lunch money this week and we didn’t put up much of a fight.

They’ll be back for more.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Gerald read the newspaper at the back of the 2 train this morning.

“There’s not much here,” he said. “I stick mostly to the baseball news and nothing is coming out of the Bronx these days.”

“What about the teams that are still playing?” someone asked.

“I’m interested in the playoffs,” Gerald admitted. “I watch the games, but it’s different when your team is out of it.

“There’s nothing to get emotional about,” Gerald continued. “And baseball without emotion really isn’t baseball.”

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Days Ahead

October swirled around the Bronx this morning.

It came down Jerome Avenue and cut across East 164th Street past the construction of the new Yankee Stadium and then moved down River Avenue to the old Yankee Stadium.

The guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart wrapped their hands around steaming cups and talked about the days ahead.

“This is the first taste,” someone said. “It’s gonna get colder and the wind is gonna blow harder before we get back to baseball.”

“We should have lots of news to keep us warm,” someone else shot. “It’ll be a busy winter.”

“I’m sure there will be plenty of news,” someone said. “A lot of the news will probably be good, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are a bunch of dark days between us and a ballgame.”

“Yeah,” they all said.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Building Trust

People in the Bronx trust Brian Cashman.

“I once saw him eating lunch at El Nuevo Caridad in Washington Heights,” said a man on the 2 train this afternoon. “I want over and told him some things I thought about the team. He was nice and nodded a lot, but about halfway into the conversation I remember saying to myself ‘Why are you bothering this guy? He knows what he’s doing so just go sit down and shut up.’

“I’m sure he hears from fans all the time,” the man continued. “But he won’t hear from me again. I trust him to do his job because he’s done well with it.”

The Yankees have entrusted Cashman with a new three-year contract.

“I think he’ll have a good plan to rework the team this winter,” the man said. “I won’t speculate on any moves or trades and I won’t even offer an opinion if I see him out at lunch.”

The man smiled and said:

“I’m confident I’ll have lots to cheer about on Opening Day.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Javier took the D train home last night. He walked behind the old Yankee Stadium bleachers and around to the players’ gate. Some guys had been around earlier to clean out their lockers, but everyone was gone now.

The off-season was settling in and Javier was missing his baseball team.

“These are the hardest days,” he explained. “It’s a lonely feeling after spending more than seven months with the Yankees. You hang on every piece of news in Spring Training and on every pitch all season long. Then it’s over and everyone goes home.

“Now guys like me gotta wait around for better days,” Javier continued. “I know they’ll get here, but it feels like it’s gonna be a long winter.”

Javier took another look at the players’ gate and then turned to head home.

“Tomorrow will be easier,” he said. “It’s one day closer to next year.”

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Reason To Smile

Mike Mussina gave everyone a reason to smile in the Bronx. His first 20-win season lit up the guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart this morning.

“That’s what I was looking for from the last day of the season,” said Javier from Walton Avenue. “The whole team wanted that win for Moose. They got him a lead and the bullpen held on until they could give the ball to Mariano. Even with a sore shoulder you knew that Mariano wouldn’t let that game get away.”

Everyone nodded.

“It was great to see the team pull together,” Javier said. “They finished the season strong and that was important. There’s always good and bad in a baseball season. You try to learn from the bad and you live the good for all it’s worth.

“I’ll save the bad for another day,” Javier continued. “Today is all about Mike Mussina: 20-game winner.”

The guys finished their coffee and went to work smiling.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Questions and Answers

Mike Mussina knows the numbers. He won his 269 big-league game on Tuesday to go one up on Jim Palmer. The 2,810 strikeouts next to his name are seven more than Cy Young. He has 19 wins this year – the third time to that number in his career – and one more shot at 20.

Reporters have been asking about 20 wins for weeks and they finally got Mussina to admit that: “It’s a significant number.”

But then Mussina took over both sides of the interview:

“After playing this long and winning all these games,” Mussina began, “if I don’t win on Sunday, then has it been bad? Has it been lousy, unsuccessful?

“No,” Mussina answered.

“Am I going to be disappointed in what I’ve done for all these years?” Mussina asked.

“No,” Mussina answered again.

“There’s a lot of things you can’t control,” Mussina said. “Winning baseball games is not easy.”

But he admitted:

“It would be a lot of fun to win it.”

Saturday, September 27, 2008

We’ve Got Time

The game ended nearly six hours after it was scheduled to start. The night was filled with mist and drizzle and rain and fog. The grounds crew pulled the tarp on and off the field so many times that their names should have been written on every scorecard.

Almost everyone appeared in the box score. Cody Ransom came in for Derek Jeter and went three for three with two homers and two RBIs. Wilson Betemit pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez and smacked an RBI double.

David Robertson threw two scoreless innings, got the win and took over the three spot in the batting order after Bobby Abreu drove in his 100th run of the season. Nine different Yankees drove in runs. Robinson Cano drove in five.

Most of the Boston fans had been driven from the ballpark by the time Chris Britton got the final out at 12:52 a.m. We totaled our scorebooks in the Bronx on the 88th win of the season.

We go for 89 today and no one in this neighborhood cares how long it takes.

We’ve got time.

Friday, September 26, 2008


New York was soaked this morning. A man on Broadway snapped up his collar and yanked down his hat, but couldn’t keep the rain off his face.

“It’s uncomfortable,” he said, “but that’s not always a bad thing. I think being a little bit uncomfortable – with not making the postseason – is going to be good for the Yankees.

“We had a great run,” the man continued. “I’m proud of what the team has accomplished over the years. I’m proud of what they’ve done this year, too. We didn’t have enough to get to the playoffs, but there are still three games left and we can get to 90 wins. That ain’t bad.”

The man stopped and wiped the rain from his face.

“No one stays on top forever,” he said. “And that’s not just a way to explain what happened this year. It’s a warning for next year to every team in front of us.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Meaningful Game

A man on the 2 train bristled at the idea. He scanned the newspaper to confirm what was floating around the Bronx this morning.

“Yup,” he said. “They called the game ‘meaningless.’”

He shook his head.

“There’s no such thing as a meaningless baseball game,” the man explained. “Hughes pitched really well and Nady got a big hit and Abreu clocked a grand slam. The Yankees won and that means a lot to me.

“Take a look at the politicians in Washington if you want something meaningless,” the man said. “Everything that comes out of that place is meaningless to anyone but the richest. They’ve been robbing us for years and now their idea to fix things is to rob us some more.”

The man shrugged.

“The bankers will get their billions and we’ll lose our homes and our jobs,” he said. “About the only meaningful thing we’ll have left is our baseball team.

“I guess we’ll have to settle for that,” the man continued. “What choice do we have?”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Shot

Mike Mussina took a line-drive shot off his right elbow in the third inning. He pitched through the pain and the fifth and now has a shot to win 20 games.

This would be Mussina’s first stop at 20, but he’s been in the neighborhood before. He has won 18 games three times and now 19 games three times, too.

Some say that close doesn’t count, but Mussina’s numbers certainly do. He has 269 victories – one better than Jim Palmer – and 2,810 strikeouts – seven more than Cy Young – in an 18-year career.

He has taken the ball in plenty of big games – there were the seven shutout innings against Oakland in the 2001 American League Division Series and the game-saving relief effort against Boston in the 2003 American League Championship Series – but every one is important to Mussina.

“You always want to go out and give your team a chance,” he told reporters last night. “The team gave me a chance tonight because I gave the bullpen a lot of outs to get. They’ve been throwing the ball really well when I come out. I can’t win 19 games without those guys pitching behind me.”

The whole team and everyone in the Bronx will be behind Mussina when he takes the mound on Sunday with a shot at 20.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Smiles All Around

People couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces in the Bronx this morning. They came up the Grand Concourse and down Jerome Avenue and across East 164th Street from High Bridge.

Some of them gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart as the old Yankee Stadium stared across Joyce Kilmer Park and the new Yankee Stadium peeked around the corner at East 161st Street.

“I can’t get The Captain out of my head,” Javier told everyone as he peeled the lid off his coffee. “That speech really got to me. I couldn’t remember most of the words by the time I left the Stadium, but I’ll never forget what it felt like when he spoke.

“Derek made me feel special,” Javier continued. “I’ve always felt lucky to be able to watch him play, but now it’s something more.

“He called us: ‘the greatest fans in the world,’” Javier went on. “That’s something to live up to. I could never let The Captain down.”

All the guys nodded and their smiles widened.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Us Kids

Yesterday belonged to us kids.

It was a day before cable television and video games when we spent summers watching baseball. Mom would send us off with a paper sack stuffed with one of her famous tuna-fish sandwiches and a couple of apples and we would return with a beat-up scorecard and popcorn stuck between our teeth.

It was a day to get into the ballpark early like the old times when you could slip through a delivery gate with the beer kegs and watch early batting practice.

It was a day to see Derek Jeter take his turn in the cage and slash line drives all over the field. And a day to watch Alex Rodriguez flick balls over the wall with ease and to see Jason Giambi hit some deep into the upper deck and you had to smile when Xavier Nady unloaded three-straight blasts to center.

It was a day to watch the pitchers shag in the outfield and see Damaso Marte and Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera work the right-field crowd. And it was a day to laugh every time Marte caught a fly ball behind his back.

It was a day to watch night slip over the Stadium and see big-leaguers hang on the rail and sit on top of the dugout while the legends lit up the field.

Then it was time to see Johnny Damon and Jose Molina hit big homers and have Andy Pettitte give us everything, again.

And it was a night to pump your fist when Phil Coke got a big out to end the sixth and a night to see Joba mow ‘em down before Mariano ended it like he always does: brilliantly.

It was a night to get home late with a beat-up scorecard and popcorn stuck between your teeth.

And it was a time for us kids to remember how much we love this game.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Another Good Day

Robinson Cano drove a two-out single up the middle and won the game in the ninth.

It gave my friend Henry – the best Yankees fan – another good day.

“What a game,” Henry said outside the players’ gate. “Robinson Cano was the hero.”

Cano’s hit broke a scoreless tie.

“It was important because we won,” Cano told reporters. “We need to win every game we have left. It felt great to see my teammates celebrating and hear the crowd. It’s something that made me really proud.

“You do it for the fans,” Cano continued. “You want to thank the Yankees fans for their support and for showing up every day to the ballpark.”

Henry returned the favor when Cano left the Stadium.

“It’s Robinson Cano,” Henry shouted. “He’s the hero of today’s game.”

Everyone cheered and Cano waved.

Henry smiled.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Off The Island

Justin arrived at Yankee Stadium in full uniform. He walked proudly through the tunnel and got his first look at the field.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “I can’t believe I’m finally here.”

His father placed a hand on his shoulder.

“You earned it,” he said.

Justin is a week off of Parris Island. He is a United States Marine and proud of it. His father is proud, too.

“I bought these tickets awhile ago,” his father said. “I surprised him when he got home from basic training.

“He’s a good kid,” his father continued. “He always tries to do what’s right. I didn’t want him to join, but there was no stopping him. He used to look at my Marine photos when he was little and that’s probably where it started.”

Justin doesn’t know where he’s going next. He might be headed to Iraq or maybe Afghanistan.

“But I’m here tonight,” he said. “Nothing else matters right now.”

Justin put an arm around his father.

“Thanks, Dad.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

Another Bronx Tale

Everyone that was gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart this morning kept glancing down the Grand Concourse. They were looking for Javier to come and spin tales about last night’s game.

“What’s taking him so long?” someone asked.

“He was probably up half the night,” someone else said. “I’m sure he was telling anyone who would listen about all the times he’s seen Humberto (Sanchez) pitch.”

Everyone nodded and laughed.

“What’s so funny,” said Javier, who had snuck up behind them by circling around the block.

“You are,” someone said. “We figured you were taking all the credit for Humberto’s perfect inning last night.”

Javier grinned.

“That was great,” he said. “Humberto is gonna be a big part of the future and I’m not just saying that because he’s from our neighborhood.”

“Did you see him leave the Stadium?” someone asked.

“I sure did,” Javier said. “I yelled ‘Way to go Humberto!’”

“What did he do?” someone asked.

Javier smiled.

“He waved.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dealing With It

Mr. Soumare was dressed neatly in khaki pants and a uniform shirt with his first name – Mamadou – embroidered on the left chest. He wore a blue bow tie and a broad smile that invited questions on the 2 train this morning.

“Is this train running local?” asked a man getting on at 72nd Street.

“It has been so far,” Mr. Soumare answered.

“Why isn’t it running express?” the man demanded.

“I’m not sure,” Mr. Soumare said. “I just ride here.”

The man laughed and stepped off the train.

“I guess he’s in a big rush,” Mr. Soumare said.

“Why don’t you switch to an express?” someone asked.

“I deal with what I’m given,” Mr. Soumare explained. “I stick with express trains that run local and I look forward to tomorrow if the Yankees don’t win today.”

Mr. Soumare smiled.

“Remember the guy at 72nd Street who was in such a big hurry?” he asked. “I’m sure to be downtown before he is.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Great To See

Juan Carlos gets up early. He pushes his cart to the Grand Concourse, picks up donuts and muffins and makes coffee. Then he waits for everyone else to wake up.

The people start coming when it’s still dark and they don’t stop until almost lunchtime. Juan Carlos makes his lunch from whatever muffins are left over.

“I smear them with peanut butter,” he explained. “They fill me up good.”

Juan Carlos then cleans the coffee maker and gets the propane tank filled before pushing his cart back to the storage building.

Then he walks home and falls asleep with the baseball game on the radio. He doesn’t make it to many games, but last night he sacrificed a good night’s sleep and sat in section 3 – one of his customers gave him the ticket – because Humberto Sanchez is a Yankee.

“He doesn’t know me,” Juan Carlos explained, “but I know him. I saw him pitch in high school and I used to always see him around the neighborhood. Now, he is everything: a ballplayer and a Yankee. I had to come and see.”

Sanchez didn’t pitch last night, but Juan Carlos saw enough.

“I spotted him during the anthem and on the top step of the dugout a few times,” Juan Carlos said. “He warmed up in the bullpen and I thought he might get in there, but he didn’t.”

Juan Carlos smiled and continued:

“It was still great to see.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Never Too Late

Javier got a late start this morning. He dragged down from his Walton Avenue apartment and made a quick stop at Juan Carlos’s cart for coffee – regular with two sugars – and a jelly donut.

“I need it to go,” Javier snapped. “I’m late for work, again.”

“You gotta quit hangin’ out at the Stadium all night,” Juan Carlos said.

“I got caught up in a conversation,” Javier explained. “There are some things that can’t wait until morning. They need to be dealt with in a bleary-eyed frenzy.”

Juan Carlos laughed as he finished packing the coffee and donut in a paper bag.

Javier smiled and said:

“Besides, it’s all about the game and it’s never too late for that.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Neighborhood Legends

The news was carried by the wind.

It blew across the Harlem River and came down every street in High Bridge. It cut over on East 164th Street and moved along River Avenue passed the construction of the new Yankee Stadium and behind the bleachers of the old Yankee Stadium.

Then it slipped around the corner at East 157th Street and came up to the Grand Concourse. It swirled down to Mott Haven and up to East Tremont and over to Hunts Point.

“Humberto Sanchez is coming home.”

The guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart couldn’t stop smiling.

“The kid is going to be a Yankee,” said Juan Carlos, who gave his regulars free donuts to celebrate. “He will be pitching at the big ballpark.”

Juan Carlos shook his head.

“It’s hard for some of us to put that into words,” he said, “but we are all very happy.”

Sanchez became a local legend pitching at South Bronx High School. Then it was on to Rockland Community College and Connors State Junior College. He was drafted by the Detroit Tigers and made minor-league stops in Oneonta, New York and Grand Rapids, Michigan and Lakeland, Florida and Erie, Pennsylvania and Toledo, Ohio. Then there was the trade to Yankees and Tommy John surgery and rehab and another minor-league trip through Tampa, Florida and Trenton, New Jersey.

Someone banged on Juan Carlos’s apartment door last night and told him that the long journey was over and Sanchez had been called up to the big leagues. He thought he would be able to bring the good news to his customers this morning.

“They all knew,” he said. “It was like everyone was informed the instant Humberto got the call.”

Neighborhood legends travel on the wind around here.

Feats Speak

Mike Mussina passed Cy Young in strikeouts on Saturday. Then Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig in hits at Yankee Stadium and Mariano Rivera tied Lee Smith on the all-time saves list on Sunday.

There’s really nothing else that needs to be said about any of that.

Some feats speak for themselves.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Few And Far Between

An early day had turned into a long night as the last of the crowd trickled down the ramps at Yankee Stadium. Everyone was feeling good after a comeback win in the second game of a doubleheader, but two people near gate 4 were doing better than the rest.

Maybe it was their one-of-a-kind T-shirts – one said “I am Phil Coke’s Grams” and the other said “I am Phil Coke’s Gramps” – or maybe it was the fact that their grandson just had another strong outing.

“Phil had a great game tonight,” someone said. “He’s really pitching well.”

More people gathered around Phil Coke’s Grams and Gramps.

“That was some double play he started,” someone else said. “He looked like Jeter on that one.”

“He looks best when he’s pitching like Phil Coke,” another person said. “Lefties like him are few and far between. I think he’s gonna be a big part of this team for a long time.”

Phil Coke’s Grams and Gramps smiled.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Efficient Performance

Phil Coke worked efficiently in his first Yankee Stadium appearance. He jumped to the top step of the dugout and fielded baseballs in the rain. Then he ducked back into the dugout with an armload, signed each one and redistributed them to the fans. This was done over and over until everyone was satisfied.

Coke smiled and waved and was ready to head back to the clubhouse when a small group behind home plate caught his eye. He nodded, walked through the puddles and went to work with no cover.

He cradled each item – balls, baseball cards, photos, scorecards – in his hand and bent at the waist to shield them from the rain. He signed again and again until everyone here was satisfied, too.

An efficient performance for the lefty from Sonora, California.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Peanut Butter And Wins

Dinner plans were carried in an over-stuffed sack this morning.

“I brought an extra sandwich,” said Jimmy D. as he waited for the 2 train. “I won’t have time to get anything after work so I’ll eat on the way to the game.

“I’m going with peanut butter,” he continued. “That’s the same thing I had the night Aaron Boone hit the extra-inning homer to win the pennant. I remember still tasting it in the back of my throat when I was cheering that ball over the wall.”

Jimmy D. laughed to himself.

“It’s funny how you remember things like that,” he said. “I guess peanut butter will always taste like a pennant to me.”

“Do the Yankees always win when you eat a peanut butter sandwich?” someone asked.

“I’m sure they don’t because I eat them all the time,” Jimmy D. answered. “But I don’t remember those games.”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Boxed In

Every day revolves around baseball. Yesterday afternoon’s game in Anaheim wasn’t enough to get me out of work, but around game time I did end up in a room with a radio and a bunch of boxes to pack and ship.

I listened and taped and stacked and beat the boxes like drums in the fifth inning when Andy Pettitte struck out two with the bases loaded. I held my breath when the count went to 3-2 on Robb Quinlan and I banged one of the boxes when his hit scored three runs for the Angels.

I tried to will the Yankees back inning after inning and box after box. I was drumming again in the ninth with the tying runs on base and Hideki Matsui at bat. The game ended quietly with just a single thump on top of the last box.

I hauled everything to the shipping department and headed home on the 2 train.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rest Easy

A sleepy 2 train rolled through the Bronx and under the Harlem River this morning. Carl – carrying a backpack with a hardhat clipped to the side – got on at 125th Street. He squeezed into a seat and quickly dozed off.

The train jerked him awake at 116th Street and again at 110th Street.

“A late night, huh?” asked the woman sitting next to him.

“The Yankees are playing on the West Coast,” Carl answered.

The woman smiled.

“I hope they won for you,” she said.

“Yeah, they did,” Carl said. “That makes it worth the effort.

“Today is a day game so I’ll get to sleep at a decent hour,” he continued. “I’ll rest easy if they can win another one.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Looking For Answers

The Bronx was up late last night. It had already moved into early morning when people leaned toward their televisions looking for answers after another loss.

Joe Girardi spoke and so did Derek Jeter and Carl Pavano. Pudge Rodriguez talked about his confrontation with Torii Hunter and the dugout-clearing incident that followed.

None of them had any answers.

“If we knew what was wrong we’d fix it,” Jeter said. “We just have to keep playing hard and find a way to win games.”

Maybe we’ll all get some answers tonight.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Clearing Space

Javier needed some space this morning. He skipped coffee at Juan Carlos’s cart and walked down Walton Avenue past 149th Street – where he usually gets the 2 train – and then cut across the 145th Street Bridge into Harlem.

“It was a nice walk,” he explained. “I cleared my head and started to wrap my mind around some things.”

He hopped on the 3 train at 148th Street with a whole new attitude.

“I can’t let other people influence how I feel about my baseball team,” Javier explained. “Writers and broadcasters all have their opinions and that’s fine, but I need to use that to decide how I feel.

“Baseball can’t always be some singular quest to make the playoffs and win the World Series,” he continued. “It’s been that way for a long time around here so you get caught up in it, but watching my team play good baseball is what it’s really about. That’s all anyone can ever ask for and that’s all I want over these last three weeks.”

Javier looked up and down the packed subway car.

“It feels good to clear some space,” he said. “This is between me and my team.”

Sunday, September 7, 2008


The Yankees will play through Sunday dinner. That’s the price of baseball on the west coast and everyone in the Bronx is ready to pick up their share of the tab.

Jose, who lives up on the Grand Concourse, is going to wait and grab something after the last out.

“I’ll meet up with some of the guys,” he said. “We’ll get dinner and talk about the game. I don’t care about the food, but I hope the conversation is good.”

Jon from High Bridge is having dinner at his mother’s place.

“She’ll have everything on the table early,” Jon explained. “We won‘t miss the first pitch. She’s done this before.”

Javier has done this before, too. He plans to dine in front of his television.

“I’m gonna pick up from the chicken joint,” Javier explained. “I’ll get a big box of chicken and one of everything on the side – mashed potatoes and corn and cole slaw and beans and french fries – and maybe I’ll go ahead and get some dessert.”

Javier smiled and then continued:

“But I’ll save the dessert until after the Yankees win.”

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Javier didn’t climb out of bed until nearly noon. He was up late trying to get the Yankees a win in Seattle.

“I wasn’t much help,” he admitted. “I was loud, but I guess they were just too far away to hear me. Maybe my voice will carry better tonight or maybe that ball Robbie hit in the eighth will carry over the wall.”

Javier lugged those hopes out of his Walton Avenue apartment. Then he stopped by and talked to the guys playing dominoes in Joyce Kilmer Park.

“Tough game last night,” Javier shot.

They all agreed.

“I gotta go get some breakfast,” Javier said.

“Isn’t it a little late for breakfast?” someone asked.

“Yeah,” someone else said. “This is time for brunch.”

“I ain’t much of a brunch guy,” Javier said. “I’ll probably get a grilled cheese sandwich and have them throw an egg on it. Is that close enough?”

“That’s about as close to brunch as the Yankees were to winning that game last night,” someone said.

“That’ll have to do for now,” Javier said. “But I want a win tonight.”

Friday, September 5, 2008


A man at the end of the counter carefully folded the newspaper and placed it next to a plate of bacon, eggs and whole-wheat toast. He dug into his breakfast and started to digest last night’s loss.

“Everyone was disappointed,” he said. “The Yankees got it going in the ninth, but it just wasn’t enough.

“It’s hard when there’s the feeling that you have to win every game,” the man continued. “I know that’s the position they’re in, but every loss shouldn’t feel like the end of the world.

“They’re coming up against some pretty good teams,” the man explained. “You play to win and see how it comes out. That’s what makes baseball fun.”

The man caught the stares of everyone at the counter.

“That’s right,” he shot. “Baseball is fun.”

They all smiled and finished breakfast.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Meeting Expectations

Javier peeled the lid off his coffee and smiled at the thought of 23 more games.

“I love the way the Yankees are playing ball,” he told the guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart. “They are tough to beat and it’s fun to watch.”

Everyone nodded.

“I can’t wait for tonight’s first pitch,” Javier said. “Last night I heard A-Rod say, ‘Every game is the most important game.’

“That’s all I want from my team,” Javier continued. “And I think we can expect that the rest of the way.”

They all smiled.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Javier woke up this morning still thinking big. He stretched his back and ripped into a day-old bagel before heading down five flights to Walton Avenue.

He cut down East 157th Street and grabbed a newspaper at the bodega on Gerard Avenue. He smiled at the headline – Yankees Not Willing To Give In Just Yet – as he walked along River Avenue and down the stairs to the D train.

He settled into a seat on the last car and started reading:

“I think we’ve gone through the frustrating and disappointing points,” General Manager Brian Cashman said. “The focus is on the small things: concentrating on today’s game, trying to pick up a game a week and get to Fenway Park and making that series meaningful. That’s the simple way to look at it.”

Javier nodded and his focus narrowed.

“Is it too much to ask to pick up a game a week or something along those lines?” Cashman asked. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

Javier smiled and kept reading.

“Well, that’s no pressure,” Mike Mussina said. “We pick up a game a week and then we’ve got to sweep them in Boston. Let’s just win on the day we’ve got to play. It’s that simple.”

“Yeah,” Javier said. “We’ve got to keep it simple and focus small so big things will happen. There’s just one game to win tonight and that would be big enough for me.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Coke And A Smile

Fingernails were chewed down and scorecards were a mess when it was finally over. The Yankees needed almost four hours and 13 runs to beat the Detroit Tigers on Labor Day, but a win is always worth the effort.

And watching the postgame interview with Phil Coke – who struck out two in his Major League debut – made a bunch of tired fans smile in the Bronx.

“I was extremely excited,” Coke told YES reporter Kim Jones. “It was something I always hoped to do. I can’t really put it into words. It hasn’t set in.”

Coke talked about the cab ride from the airport and the feeling of standing on a big-league field for the first time. Then he went on about his catcher and the hitters and who was watching back home.

“My family and friends,” he said. “And pretty much my whole hometown of Sonora, California.”

Everyone in Coke’s new baseball home – the Bronx – was watching and smiling, too.

Monday, September 1, 2008

True Colors

A reporter fired the question at Joe Girardi after yesterday’s loss:

“Will this 10-game road trip show what this team is made of?”

“We have to play our best baseball the rest of the way,” Girardi answered. “If things don’t go your way, one at-bat or one pitch, you’ve got to get back up and fight. When things are down, that’s when people show their true colors.”

The Yankees will wear road gray when they hit Detroit today. Then it will be on to Tampa and Seattle and Los Angeles.

There’s a little less than a month left in the season. That’s almost four weeks. It’s exactly 26 games and the Yankees need every one of them.

What they do in these 26 games is what this team is really made of.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nothing Back

Alex Rodriguez – born just across the Harlem River in Washington Heights – spoke for the Bronx yesterday.

“It hurts a lot,” Rodriguez told reporters after the Yankees’ loss. “This is a game we feel we should have won.”

Many pointed to Robinson Cano’s error as the reason why they didn’t.

“We win as a team and we lose as a team,” Rodriguez said. “Robbie had a great day offensively and he’s been playing great defense. It’s one of those plays that you wish you could take back.”

But baseball takes nothing back. Not the low throws or the bad pitches or the hard-hit balls that turn into double plays. And it certainly never takes back the hurt.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Straight From The Doctor

Some guys in the neighborhood decided to give Javier from Walton Avenue a new title.

“We wanted something that fit,” said his friend Jose. “We thought about it for a long time and I think we got it right.”

They decided on Doctor J because Javier hands out such sound advice.

“Yeah,” Jose said. “I used to think he was kind of a know-it-all, but he really does understand things that the rest of us miss sometimes.”

“What kind of things?” someone asked.

“He keeps saying that anything is possible,” Jose explained. “That makes everyone feel better and good things happen when people are feeling better.

“He told us to believe in Carl Pavano,” Jose continued. “Then Pavano comes back and really gives the team a lift. Now the whole neighborhood feels good about the rest of the season.”

Jose smiled and said:

“Anything is possible. And that’s straight from the Doctor.”

Friday, August 29, 2008

Pitching Philosopher

Mike Mussina fielded the question – the reoccurring one about the Yankees’ chances of making the postseason – with the same skill and quickness he did a liner to end the seventh inning.

“If we can go out and win one ballgame every day, then it doesn’t matter what our chances look like here with 29 to go,” Mussina said. “We have to go out and win that given day. You can’t look at it like we’ve got to win 10 out of 15 or 20 out of 25. You have to win one ballgame.”

Tonight it’s against Toronto.

Slugging Poet

Jason Giambi – lefty slugging poet – dropped the signature line after dropping the hammer on a game tying two-run homer and a game-winning single.

“You feel like you’ve got an opportunity to not let the ball club go quietly into the night.”


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Almost Tomorrow

Javier was at the end of a lousy day. He stood outside the players’ gate at Yankee Stadium after last night’s loss still wearing the stain of bad beginning.

“Look at this,” Javier said pointing to a spot on his shirt. “That’s were my jelly donut exploded this morning. I started eating from the wrong end and paid the price.

“It was all downhill from there,” he continued. “Work was, well, work and my train was delayed and then we fell behind in the first inning and things got a whole lot worse before it was over.”

Javier shook his head.

“Tomorrow will be better,” he said. “It pretty much has to be.”

Javier looked at his watch.

“Heck,” he shot. “It’s almost tomorrow already.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Matter Of Respect

Campos usually heads home as soon as the game ends. He cuts quickly down the ramp in farthest right field and out gate 6. Then it’s up East 157th Street to his apartment on Gerard Avenue.

He tries to squeeze the most sleep out of a night because he gets up early – 4 a.m. – to deliver bread and rolls for a downtown bakery.

But Campos was too upset to sleep after last night’s game. He stood outside the players’ gate with arms folded and shook his head.

“I can’t believe the way some people treat A-Rod,” Campos said. “It is disrespectful to the game to treat our best player like that. He is a New Yorker and a Yankee and he helps us win so many games. To boo is ridiculous.”

There were even a smattering of boos when Alex Rodriguez walked out of the Stadium wearing jeans, sneakers and a gray T-shirt.

“What’s wrong with these people?” Campos asked. “Don’t they understand anything about this game: How it’s played, what it means and how quickly it can change?”

“Nope,” Campos said answering his own question. “Some people just don’t have any respect.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Quiet Night

There was no need to rush last night.

The father moved slowly up the street as the son darted from the curb – where he watched a bus driver assist a disabled rider – to the storefront windows. The son moved quickly past the barbershop and the pizza joint and the barroom and the newsstand and the smoke shop.

“Hey,” the son shot. “Let’s go in the candy store.”

Red hots, cherry sours and chunks of pink bubblegum were stacked in the window.

“How about some ice cream?” the father asked.

“Yeah,” the son shouted.

“I’ll have a scoop of cherry vanilla in a sugar cone,” the father ordered.

“Me too,” the son said.

They sat on a bench and ate as the city streamed by.

“We’ll be at the ballgame come this time tomorrow,” the father said.

“All right,” the son said.

The son stopped for a moment and then asked:

“Do you think Derek Jeter gets cherry vanilla like us?”

“I bet he does,” the father said.

The son smiled.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Getting A Grip

Darrell Rasner’s pain was obvious. It was cut deeply into his face when he walked off the mound in the fourth inning of yesterday’s game.

Every pitcher has worn that face. It is frustration and anger and probably a little hate, too. It makes you want to yell and quit the game and maybe even punch something.

“I’m disgusted with myself,” Rasner told reporters later. “I just couldn’t get anything to work. It was like I’d never pitched before.”

But he can’t wait to pitch again.

“I’ll be better next time,” Rasner promised. “I have to be.”

Jim Bouton said it best:

“You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball; and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Good Medal

South Korea, Cuba, the United States and Japan all advanced to the medal round of the Olympic Baseball Tournament in Beijing.

Everyone played to win, but when it was over they explained that there are no bad medals.

“It may be bronze, but it feels like gold,” Team USA’s Matt LaPorta said. “It didn't really sink in until I was up on stage and they put the medal around my neck. I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.

“It was a huge honor just being here with the best players,” LaPorta continued. “What South Korea did (finishing 9-0 in the tournament and winning the gold) was amazing because there were so many great teams here. To be able to win every game against this competition is special.”

The great Hyunjin Ryu won the gold medal game for South Korea.

“Our goal was to win the gold,” Ryu said, “but mostly we just wanted to come here and compete well. I was nervous in the ninth inning, but it worked out for us against a great team.”

Cuba had their best player – and one of the best players in the world – Yuliesky Gourriel at the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth, but a double play ended their chance to repeat as Olympic champions.

Legendary Cuban pitcher Pedro Luis Lazo wore a prideful smile and his fourth Olympic medal (two silvers and two golds) when it was over.

“Silver is a fine medal,” Lazo said. “We fought hard and that makes it a good medal.”

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Downtown Deals

Downtown was full of deals this morning.

“Sunglasses,” a vendor shouted. “Two pairs for five bucks.”

A group of tourists stopped. Six pairs of sunglasses were headed to the Heartland a few minutes later.

“You gotta offer deals these days,” the vendor said. “Everybody’s doin’ it.”

Watches were going for 20 dollars and T-shirts were two for one and Statue of Liberty snow globes were down to three dollars.

Shoe shines were the best deal.

“Only a buck,” the man said. “And every shine comes with a Yankee win.”

“You can guarantee a Yankee win?” someone shot.

“Absolutely,” the man said.

“What can you do with these sneakers?” someone asked.

“I’ll make ‘em look like new,” the man said. “And you can put ‘em up on the coffee table when you’re watching the Yankees tonight.”

“A win, right?” someone asked.

“Yes,” the man said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

No Shame

The Yankees lost to Roy Halladay – the game’s best pitcher – last night in Toronto.

There’s no shame in that.

Team USA was knocked off by Cuba in the Olympic semifinals this morning. Pedro Luis Lazo – baseball’s best big-game pitcher – finished off the victory.

There’s no shame in that.

But it all still hurts.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tough Customers

The guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart were talking about tough customers this morning.

“Andy Pettitte is pretty tough,” someone said. “He came up big last night in a game the Yankees needed.”

Everyone nodded.

“Javier is the toughest customer,” Juan Carlos shot from his cart. “He’s always changing his coffee order and he has to handpick the biggest donut.”

Javier bounced on the balls of feet and threw a few quick jabs at the air.

“I’ll take you on right now,” Javier fired. “You never get the sugar right in my coffee.”

They all laughed.

“Roy Halladay is a tough customer,” someone offered. “He won’t be easy to beat tonight, but the guys have to do it.”

“Yeah,” everyone said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Way It Is

Everyone on the Grand Concourse this morning knew the feeling. So did the people waiting for the D train at East 161st Street. The guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart knew it, too.

The Bronx has taken punches to the gut and police clubs to the head. People in this neighborhood know all about knockdowns and beatings. And they can take it.

They can take anything because they don’t have a choice. And they take it with hopeful smiles because they don’t know any other way.

This is another day to survive and tonight there is another baseball game to win.

That’s just the way it is around here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


There wasn’t much to talk about this morning. That silence made things uncomfortable for the guys gathered around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart.

Everyone was still thinking about Ronney Vargas’s senseless death. They thought about the grief of his father and the rest of his family. And they hoped that no one else would be shot in the streets.

That hope vanished quickly because they’ve all been around long enough to know that nothing ever changes around here.

So thoughts drifted to their baseball team. The Yankees have always brought real hope to a lot of people that don’t have much. They will watch televisions or listen to radios and believe that the guys can brighten a dark night in Toronto.

Then maybe tomorrow there will be a little more hope and something to talk about, too.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Basic Right

Nothing has been able to lift the mood around here. A pair of Yankee wins brought brief smiles to the Bronx, but reality wiped them away.

They were gone as quickly as Ronney Vargas’s life. He was killed on Saturday – pistol whipped and shot in the chest – because he talked to the wrong person’s girlfriend outside a bodega in East Tremont.

Vargas was a hero in his Mott Haven neighborhood and all over the Bronx. He was a three-time Golden Gloves champion and was undefeated in his first year as a professional boxer.

His record will stand at 8-0 forever because someone got jealous and used a gun.

The highest court in this county recently reaffirmed an individual’s right to own a gun. That must seem like a reasonable decision in a nice, clean courtroom. But a person’s most basic right is not getting shot. Ronney Vargas was denied that right and now a father has to bury his 20-year-old son.

Vargas is not the first person to be shot around here and he won’t be last because there are too many guns in the Bronx. There are also too many guns in Brooklyn and Queens and Newark and Detroit and Miami and Memphis and Houston and Los Angeles.

This morning someone said, “Ronney woulda been a champion. He really coulda been somebody.”

Ronney Vargas was somebody and now he’s dead.

Maybe the Supreme Court should take a look at that.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Better Win

Bobby Abreu limped off the field in the 12th inning after breaking up a double play. One inning later he shot out of the dugout and celebrated with Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner.

Everyone felt better after the win.

“This was big for us because we’ve been scuffling,” Joe Girardi told reporters. “We’ve been struggling to score runs and maybe this is the game we needed to get us back on the winning track.”

Girardi smiled and said:

“However it comes, it comes.”

It didn’t come easily.

“We left numerous opportunities out there,” Alex Rodriguez said. “I think each one of us is trying to pick each other up, and yeah, it probably weighs on us a little bit. But the important thing is we won the game.”

The Captain agreed.

“At this point, it doesn’t make a difference how it looks,” Derek Jeter said. “We need to get wins.”

There’s another one out there today.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Need To Win

The Yankees came back from three runs down in the fifth inning. And they came so close to a victory – down by one with the bases loaded in the ninth – that they desperately needed last night.

“Close ain’t good enough,” Joe Girardi snapped after the game. “We have to find ways to get it done. We had a ton of opportunities early and we had opportunities late. Because we didn’t execute, we didn’t win. At some point, you have to start executing on a consistent basis if you want to play in October.”

But Girardi isn’t thinking that far ahead.

“We need to come out and win tomorrow,” he said. “We can’t worry about this game or yesterday’s game or who’s ahead of us in the standings. We just need to win.”

It starts today.

Friday, August 15, 2008


My barber Orlando likes to push the limits. He has clippers, shavers, a hot plate and a coffee pot plugged into one electrical outlet. Sometimes the strain is too much and the splitters and extension cords will pop and smoke.

“That’s when you know it’s time to turn something off,” Orlando explained. “You’ll never find the limit without smoke. That’s what the Yankees are finding out right now.”

Orlando pointed to a pair photos on the back wall of the barbershop. One was of Floyd Mayweather Jr.: the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world before retiring earlier this year. And the other was of Derek Jeter: the best pound-for-pound baseball player in the world.

“Derek and the Yankees need to takes some lessons from Pretty Boy Floyd,” Orlando said. “They need to put up a good defense and throw some punches. They can win this thing, but it’s gonna be a fight. The next six weeks will push ‘em to the limit.”

Orlando smiled and said:

“That’s the only way to find out what you’re capable of.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Orders From The Top

Derek Jeter answers the questions at shortstop. He answers the questions in Yankee Stadium and all over the Bronx and on the 2 train, too.

The trip under the Harlem River and down the Westside of Manhattan was dragging after another disappointing loss, but Javier focused on The Captain’s words.

“Derek admitted that it was a bad road trip,” Javier explained. “He said that the team needed to fix some things and start scoring runs and winning games.

“Maybe we already knew that,” Javier continued, “but it’s important that it came from Derek. On the radio last night I heard someone ask him if the rest of the team was confident and he said: ‘They better be.’”

Javier’s face turned serious.

“And we had better be, too.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Javier was in his Walton Avenue apartment when the final out settled into Bobby Abreu’s glove. The clock flashed 12:29 a.m. in the Bronx – 11: 29 p.m. in Minneapolis – when he turned to his friend Ron from across the hall and asked:

“How long can you hold your breath?”

“I’m not sure,” Ron answered. “How long was that game?”

“Too long,” Javier said with a smile, “but at least we won it.”

Javier checked the newspaper this morning for the official word on the 9-6, 12 inning victory.

“Four hours and 22 minutes,” he said. “That’s how long we can hold our breath because that’s what it took the Yankees to win a game they had to have.”

Javier took a deep breath and held it for a moment.

“Just warming up,” he said. “We need another win today.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Backing Up Centerfield

Melky Cabrera sat alone in the dugout last night. He stared across the field at a disappointing season – .243 with 8 homers and 36 RBIs – and another frustrating night.

It was his 24th birthday and an 0-3 game – including an inning-ending double play in the second – wasn’t how he planned to celebrate.

Maybe Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez cheered him up later with a birthday dinner. Or maybe he and his buddy Robinson Cano ate out of the hotel vending machine like so many Latin players have to do in the minors. Or maybe he just sat alone in his room and stared at the walls because he knows there are no guarantees.

It doesn’t matter that he has delivered plenty of big hits and helped this team win plenty of big games. It doesn’t matter how hard he works or how hard he plays.

Baseball is a bottom-line business. But the South Bronx is not a bottom-line neighborhood. And New York – despite the ramblings of outsiders – is not a bottom-line city.

People are important around here so we’ll be busy backing up our centerfielder.


Joe Girardi faced reporters after last night’s loss and reaffirmed his faith.

“I believe in our guys. I believe they’ll score runs. And I believe that tomorrow is another day.”

This game makes everyone believe in tomorrow and the next day and the next day, too.

“There’s nothing that says we can’t win eight in a row,” Girardi said. “When you win eight in a row, you feel a lot better about your ballclub. We’ve done it once. We’ll do it again.”

Faith is part of baseball. No one gets to tomorrow without it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Come Out Swinging

Eyes were aimed down and the platform was silent as people waited for the 2 train. The cool air drifting though the Bronx this morning hadn’t made it three stories under the Grand Concourse.

“It’s a hot blast of reality,” shoots Javier from Walton Avenue. “It really hits about halfway down and you know the day ain’t gonna be as good as you’d hoped.”

There haven’t been too many good days in the Bronx lately.

“We’ve taken a beating,” Javier admits. “The Yankees need to win games and they just haven’t put it together.”

Each loss has been tougher than the last.

“Yesterday was the most frustrating,” Javier explains. “There were so many chances to win that game and we missed ‘em. That can’t happen anymore. The guys know what they need to do and they’ll come out swinging in Minnesota.”

Javier forces a smile and says:

“They have to come out swinging.”

Sunday, August 10, 2008

On Winning

The best players are always focused on winning. It’s what they talk about even after a disappointing loss.

“Quite honestly, we can’t look back now,” Derek Jeter said. “We’re running out of games so we need to move on from this point. We need to play well.

“Every game is important,” Jeter continued. “We need to come out and win.”

Pudge Rodriguez is new in the neighborhood, but he knows plenty about winning.

“This team has the talent to win everything,” Rodriguez said. “But we’ve got to start winning.”

The rest of the season begins today.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What They Said

Ian Kennedy said something after last night’s loss:

“I’m just not real upset about it. I’m just going to move on. I’ve already done that.”

Alex Rodriguez said something else after breaking an 0-15 slump with a solo homer:

“I haven’t been taking it that hard. I just want to go up there and hit the ball hard and have good at-bats. There hasn’t been a lot of that lately, but tonight was better so we’ll see what happens.”

Both players were talking to reporters and had to say something. Kennedy’s words may not have come out perfectly and Rodriguez may not be carrying the team like he did for so much of last season. But they both tried to say the only thing a ballplayer ever can:

“There’s nothing I can do about that (the pitches or the swings), but I’ll be back tomorrow ready to win.”

Friday, August 8, 2008

Off The List

Mike Mussina has been pitching awhile and Derek Jeter has also played in a few baseball games.

They both said the same thing when reporters asked about a play in the ninth inning last night.

“I’ve never seen that before.”

Wilson Betemit was on first base with one out when Jose Molina grounded to second. Betemit stayed on the bag because he believed the ball was a looping liner.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler threw out Molina at first which took off the force and Betemit was safe. If Kinsler had thrown to second he would have started a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. But Johnny Damon moved Betemit into scoring position and Jeter drove him in to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.

“If you hang around this game long enough you’ll see just about everything,” Mussina said. “That’s one more crossed off my list.”

It’s off my list, too.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The News

Jon got the news on the 2 train.

“A guy at Chambers Street last night noticed my hat,” Jon explained. “He asked if I’d heard the news about Joba. I shook my head and prepared for the worst. Then he gave me the best news I could have hoped for.

“I know that rotator cuff tendinitis isn’t a good thing,” Jon continued. “But it’s a whole heck of a lot better than a lot of other stuff that has been going through my mind. Maybe he’s back in a few weeks or a month or maybe it’s not until next year. I just want him to come back strong and healthy.”

Jon paused and a thin smiled slid across his face.

“That kid makes watching baseball a lot of fun,” he said. “Knowing I have that to look forward to makes a temporary setback like this easier the take.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Go From Here

The 2 train was slow this morning.

The automated voice said: “We are being delayed by train traffic ahead. Please be patient.”

Patience runs thin during rush hours, but early in the morning – before 7:00 a.m. – delays are taken in stride.

“It’s not all bad,” said the man sitting next to me. “At least now I can finish the newspaper.”

“Is there any good news today?” I asked.

“Not too much,” the man said. “The Yankees lost and there’s still no real news on Joba.”

The man turned back a few pages in his newspaper and then continued:

“There is this quote from Joba that made me feel a little better: ‘Life’s too short to worry. You hope everything will be okay and you think it will be, and you just go from there.’”

“So I guess we should be able to go from here?” I shot.

“Yeah,” said the man.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


That two-run homer in the fourth inning didn’t seem like a big deal this morning and neither did the three-run shot in the fifth or the game-winning grand slam in the ninth.

The Bronx gained some perspective last night and the guys eating breakfast around Juan Carlos’s coffee cart were focused on reality.

“It’s amazing how quickly your outlook can change,” said Jon from Highbridge. “One minute it was about winning the ballgame and all that mattered the next minute was Joba’s shoulder. A game just doesn’t mean much when you consider the health of a player.”

Jon paused and shook his head.

“I just want the kid to be okay.”

Everyone nodded and crossed their fingers.