Thursday, May 6, 2010

I Think it Started with George

I've rooted for the NY Yankees most of my life. My dad was a NY Giants fan, and continued to root for them even after Horace Stoneham moved the ball club to Candlestick Park and my mom grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and remained one for many years after Walter O'Malley had led the way west and to riches beyond imagination for professional baseball and ultimately all professional sports. In the last decade or so, Mom has become more of a Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays fan, I think, because of geographic considerations.

I see my Dad and Mom, being from two tribes in two different worlds as they were in the early Fifties, really like Romeo and Juliet (at the very least, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern) against all odds, meeting and marrying, I can hear the swelling violins over the mighty Wurlitzer playing Take Me Out to the Ballgame (what? The only constant is change. Just go with it, okay?).

For a while as a tyke I rooted for the NY Mets even through the return of Wilie Mays, my all time hero, to play for The Amazin's in the twilight of his career, nearly getting brained trying to play center field. We went to more than our share of games in Shea Stadium (motto: 'You can almost touch the airplanes taking off and landing!') and even as kids we could tell something was stinking up the field and it wasn't what the ground crew was using. These weren't the years of Tom Seaver and Tug McGraw, and You Gotta Believe and I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City, these Mets teams were frighteningly bad, just ask Jimmy Breslin.

My younger brother, Kelly, and I went to a Mets game one afternoon with my friend George B, from Browning, and his younger brother when Roger Maris played for the St. Louis Cardinals and every time Maris came to the plate we, along with everyone in Shea, booed him lustily for all of his success with his former ball club, the Yankees. I did feel a pang of guilt when, years later, he died of cancer wondering if we boo-birds had contributed in any way to his demise.

But for most of nearly six decades, my team has been the Yankees (and their beer sponsor, when Mel Allen was their broadcast voice, was Ballantine, not well nevermind.....). Hadn't realized until a couple of years ago, visiting our son living in Boston at the time, after we wound up on Yawkey Way, behind Fenway on a Sunday game day against the Yankees and spotted the teeshirts with "Take Your 26 Rings" on the front with "And Shove 'em Up Your Asterisk (sort of)" on the back. Until then I hadn't realized the intensity of the passion that those who disliked the Yankees possessed. I've had friends with bumper stickers, "I root for two teams, the Red Sox and anyone playing the Yankees." Notice the past tense of the verb (kidding and sorry about keying the paint on your trunk. When you squint, it does look a little like the Yankees logo, weird huh?).

Imagine my surprise the other day to come across an item on ESPN that at first made me smile, but now, has hurt my feelings, "Indians, NOT Yankees, Most Hated Team in Baseball" What? The Cleveland Indians, a Big Wahoo Welcome and all the rest of the less than miraculous happenings along the Cayahoga River, those Cleveland Indians? Must be a bad joke, like the two hundred and forty-seven sequels to Major League, which was one of the greatest sports movies of all times. Besides, no one ever made a movie called Damn Indians. Waitaminit, bad example.

Seriously, the Cleveland Indians? We're talking Bob Uecker over that huckleberry, Phil Rizzuto, 'just a bit outside' versus 'Holy Cow!' C'mon! But there it is in black and white, or whatever color electrons are on your monitor, 0.9 to 1.8, but I do take some solace with the amazing consistency of The Olde Town Team, who finished second. Again. I can hear the rending of garments all the way to Harvard Square. Burn On.
-bill kenny

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