A Yankee Fan's Notes

  • Share
  • Read Later
It was October 1978. I was six years old and my father made a family announcement that was bigger than winning the lottery: WORLD SERIES TICKETS! For pint-sized Yankees fans in the late '70s (or the late '90s, the '60s, '50s, '40s, '30s or '20s) the Yankees were an introduction to all of the greatest things in life — heroes, triumph, unconditional love. And, perhaps above all, they were a chance to feel invincible. Our seats were about 20 rows behind home plate, a perfect vantage point to see the giants of October. Reggie Jackson hitting the ball into the stratosphere. Goose Gossage fastballs coming straight at us in 100 mph 3-D. I sat one seat behind Christopher Reeves. Throughout the game, I kept marveling over how puny Superman looked in front of my real-life superheroes.

Like presidential elections, a New York Yankees World Series championship seems to come around every four years. On Wednesday October 27, 1999, about 20 minutes before midnight, the Yanks won baseball's heavyweight belt—a World Series championship. It was to be expected. The players rejoiced on the mound and filed into the clubhouse, where the champagne flowed. They were happy, but seemingly nonplussed, quickly, methodically exiting the stadium. No big deal. The winningest team of the century, the Old Faithful of American sports, won its 25th championship this century. Year fades into year, generations pass, DiMaggio is replaced by Mantle. The Yankees win. Manhattan may own all of New York City’s skyscrapers, but for the past four generations, the crowning jewel of the city’s might has resided at 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx.

No team has permeated popular culture more than the Yankees. "The Pride of the Yankees," "The Babe," "Bang the Drum Slowly" and "The Scout" all filled the silver screen with pinstripes, and "Damn Yankees" filled a Broadway marquee. And who is the intangible god, the symbol of ultimate excellence in Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea"? The Great DiMaggio. And what written line better sums up the passing of a generation than Paul Simon's "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you."? Simon was bemoaning the loss of heroes in America. He didn't foresee the coming of Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry, of Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams.

This past Wednesday when I was able to bring my seven-year-old cousin Henry, with his awe-filled eyes, to the clinching game of the World Series triumph over the Braves, the heroes stood taller than Paul Bunyan again. When Jim Leyritz, savior of the '96 series, came to bat in the eighth inning, Henry clasped his hands together in prayer and asked the sky "Can he hit another home run?" As the ball sailed over the left center field fence, Henry knew there were deities of the baseball diamond, and that they understood fate.