A report from what was likely my last game at Yankee Stadium:
The anti-Boston t-shirts being sold on River Avenue outside the stadium yesterday focused on two themes: (1) 2004 was a fluke and (2) We still have more rings than you.
Even Idiots Get Lucky -- You always hear how Red Sox fans are allegedly obsessed with the Yankees because of their inferiority complex, but a lot of the new Yankee shirts focused on the Red Sox. And instead of the classic Boston Sucks, this one offers excuses. Likewise with the There Was No Curse - The Red Sox Just Sucked For 86 Years.
Numbers Don't Lie -- This apparently refers to the huge edge in championships New York has over Boston (26-6). However, these numbers don't lie either: 6-4, 5-4, 4-2 and 10-3.
Hey Boston, Now You Know What It Feels Like To Be A Yankee -- Um, not really. My team never choked away a 3-0 lead in a best-of-7 series.
Inside the park, the fans' chants and insults were more amusing than biting, though I admit I found myself getting fairly annoyed through the first six innings. Any thoughts I had before the season began about being complacent to any degree after winning the World Series have been completely eradicated. After sitting among Yankee fans for just one half-inning, I realized that these idiots -- real idiots, not the manufactured Boston kind -- needed to be slapped down again ... and again ...and again ...
And early on, that simply wasn't happening. At first, the game was bit see-saw-ish. Boston went 1-2-3 in the top of the first against Carl Pavano (Nixon and Ramirez struck out) and the Yankees went quickly and quietly in their half against Matt Clement. New York loaded the bases with one out in the second, but Clement wriggled out of trouble; in the top of the third, Boston singled twice, but also did not score.
In the bottom of the third, Clement hit Jeter with his first pitch and Edgar Renteria committed an error on a hot shot by Rodriguez. After Sheffield's groundout scored Jeter and moved Slappy to second, I expected Terry Francona to walk Hideki Matsui. In his first at-bat, Matsui had drilled a single off the right field wall (and the man in general just wears out our pitchers). With one out, Boston could go for the double play with Jorge Posada up. Instead, Clement pitched to Matsui. He took two balls, then looked at two strikes, then lofted a high fly that carried into the right field stands for a three-run home run.
David Ortiz got one of the runs back in the next inning with a solo shot to center and three straight singles in the seventh (Bill Mueller, Mark Bellhorn, Johnny Damon) chased Pavano and also brought Boston to within one run. In the top of the ninth, after Mariano Rivera struck out Renteria (the home fans cheered Rivera as if last year had never happened), Jason Varitek lined a 1-2 pitch to right for a game-tying home run, putting another dent in Rivera's armor.
The Red Sox fans in my section celebrated noisily (some of us had said we were simply waiting for Rivera to start our comeback). Unfortunately, we were silenced a few minutes later when Jeter opened the bottom of the ninth with an opposite field shot off Keith Foulke. The Red Sox are now 0-2.
If you sit in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium (as I did, out by the right field foul pole (also known as The Bellhorn Pole!)), it's a long, slow walk down the various ramps to the street. The Yankee fans were quite obnoxious, but their celebration seemed borne more from relief than confidence. Rivera had blown yet another save against Boston and they were scared. When Jeter responded in the home half, they acted out. But it was more out of dodging another Boston bullet and not having to deal with recurring October flashbacks.
There is a lot of anger. Yankee fans were high-fiving each other and ragging on us after Jeter's home run, but when I silently opened my jacket to reveal my 2004 Champions shirt, their happiness switched to fury, as they screamed obscenities and waved their middle fingers. At SoSH, I read many comments from Opening Night along the same lines.
Even before the game, during the national anthem, Yankee fans were yelling at various Red Sox fans to remove their caps (they ignored the few Yankee fans who kept their caps on). One burly fan was pointing and screaming at me from another section: "Take off your fucking cap! Take it off! Show some fucking respect!" He kept this up for at least 20 seconds -- while the anthem was being sung. This, of course, is nothing new. I guess in the Bronx, respect is a one-way street.
Wakefield/Mussina at 1:00 pm.