The Splendid Splinter…
I confess. I was pulling for the Red Sox to advance in the American League playoffs. Alas, as usual for me, baseball in October is about disappointment.
The Yankees – big surprise – appear to be on a roll and why not. Money buys happiness in Yankeeland – new stadium, a pitching staff that is an embarrassment of riches, a team leader (and MVP?) in the too perfect Jeter and, thank God, a quiet George Steinbrenner. Beyond Alex Rodriquez’s little steroid problem, the Yankees have almost become the no drama Bombers.
Still, while granting the remarkable history of Yankee success – Joe Girardi wearing No. 27 as the millionaires in pinstripes seek their 27th World Series – how can you not like the Sox?
The famous line about what it’s like being a fan of the Bronx Bombers is credited to a number of people and it may have been the great sportswriter Jim Murray who said it first, “Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel.”
Perhaps that line needs updating considering the state of basic manufacturing in America. Rooting for the Yankees these days is, what, a little like rooting for Microsoft. Pulling for the Red Sox, by contrast, is like rooting for your favorite uncle or for the kid’s soccer team.
Being for the Sox is blue collar. Being for the Yankees is, well, pinstripes.
During the playoffs the camera frequently catches the big city swells at new Yankee Stadium, lounging in the thousand dollar seats, still decked out in ties and jackets after a hectic day of trading. They sip $12 Bud Lights, while yakking on their cell phones, no doubt checking on the Tokyo market opening. At Fenway you see guys in sweatshirts, hanging on every pitch, holding their daughters in one arm and tugging on a real beer.
Every baseball fans knows the Great DiMaggio, but brother Dom (who patrolled the outfield in Boston, made seven All-Star rosters and had a career .298 average) is mostly forgotten outside of Boston. Pesky, Yastrzemski, Cronin, Rice, all were greats and played in the best ballpark ever. Now, those are guys you could root for.
Another reason to like the Red Sox is that really good writers like them. David Halberstam’s Teammates is a wonderful little book about friendship. It begins with a 1,300 mile trip by DiMaggio and Pesky to visit the great Ted Williams.
John Updike wrote a wonderful piece – Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu – about Williams last game at Fenway in 1960. Williams, of course, in epic style, hit a home run in his last at bat at the band box and, typical Williams, refused to acknowledge the adulation of the fans.
Updike described the moment: “Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.”
No cheers for me in the American League this year. Red Sox out. Tigers done. Twins foiled. The Angels of Los Angeles or West Covina, or whatever they are, will be next. That’s the other thing about the Yankees – they are ubiquitous and, I’m afraid, inevitable. It comes down to their operating system, like it or not.
Put me down as not. I can’t bring myself to root for Microsoft.