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Sox Diary: 10-20-04

Wednesday, October 20, 2004: We believe.

It had to come down to this, didn’t it? For all of my disavowals of fate and destiny and curses and ghosts, this is what was supposed to happen. After the most supreme test of faith, which we passed, after three heartstopping games, which we survived, after being reminded of those ghosts and goblins and the omnipresent forces of the past, which we denied, the fact is that there had to be a game seven, some how, some way. There had to be a final confrontation between us and our tormentors. There had to be an epic storyline. This playoffs was geared toward this clash. It is what everybody outside of Minnesota and Anaheim wanted.

We believe.

Everyone talked about Curt Schilling and what this might mean. How long could he go? How long would that tattered ankle hold up? What sort of stuff would he have? He answered these questions pretty damned well, going seven innings, giving up a solo home run, and departing with a 4-1 lead in a performance that far surpassed Willis Reed or the over-hyped Michael Jordan flu game in immensity, performance, and obstacles overcome. As I said yesterday, I’d have been happy with five innings, a surmountable handful of runs, and a huge psychic victory. Instead, on a night when we could only muster four runs, Schill was our workhorse. And it is even more remarkable once one discovers what precisely he overcame. The talk the last few days has been all about finding shoes or a brace that would work, some wonder of technology and duct tape, medical science and voodoo. But in this balance, Schill never found a comfort zone. So according to Dr. Bill Morgan this morning, what they did was actually sew his flesh to cartilage in order to provide a barrier that kept the tendon out of its groove, since it slipped out on every pitch and it was the slippage back to its normal slot that caused excruciating pain. That was why his sock had blood on it last night, which we saw on innumerable close-ups and chalked up to seepage from a shot. They sewed flesh to cartilage, unsewed it last night, and if they go on . . . well, let’s not go that far yet. Schilling had his date with destiny. He carried us. Which is why . . .

We believe.

For those who believe in the forces of fate or history or the ghosts of Yankee Stadium, last night must have been an exorcism. We lose those games. Bellhorn’s home run that the umps initially called a double? That call never gets overturned. It did last night – correctly, as the ball clearly bounced off a fan’s chest about two feet above the wall. Instead of a two run double that made it 3-1, Belli got to trot the rest of the way, giving us an extra run that would prove vital. Then in the eighth ARod tried to cheat his way onto base. His perfidy, blatantly swatting the ball out of Arroyo’s glove on a play in front of first that would have otherwise been a clear fielder’s choice, would have been rewarded in the past. The call, initially that ARod was safe and that Jeter had scored when the ball was knocked out of Bronson’s glove, would have remained, a seeming example of how evil can sometimes overcome good. Instead, after huddling, the umpires again made the right call, ruling that ARod had obviously cheated, that he was out, and that Jeter had to return to first. Two calls that always go against the Sox, two calls that required umpires to huddle, two calls that they reversed rightly. The prehensile slackjawed mouth-breathing troglodytes in the Toilet Bowl howled madly, threw things onto the field despite their lack of opposable thumbs, and caused the game to be halted while riot police ringed the field, but justice prevailed.

We believe.

These games have been lots of things. But for a Sox fan, it may initially shock some to know that they have not been especially enjoyable. How could they be? When every pitch can mean the end of the season, when the tension is enough to open up ulcers, when the games play themselves out so excruciatingly, how could any sane person enjoy this? Of course there have been moments of rapture, but rapture born as much or relief and release as of unadulterated joy. This is our lot. We can derive pleasure from the process after the fact, but coming back from a three games to none hole tends to absorb frivolous sentiments such as joy.

We believe.

There were not going to be any easy games. The Yankees and their fans had to know this even with that seemingly insurmountable lead. We had to know it even as the comeback went from irrational dreamscape to tangible reality. And so last night’s events were not surprising. The Yankees rallied for a run off of Bronson Arroyo when Derek Jeter drove in Miguel Cairo, who had doubled. A-Fraud tried to cheat, but instead was nailed, with the resultant brouhaha giving Arroyo a chance to settle down a bit and retire the rest of the side. It was 4-2 going into the ninth, and our bats were silenced. Keith Foulke came out in the bottom of the ninth, and there was no way it could go 1-2-3. As Rob had been saying for a few innings at that point (once a superstition takes hold, you cannot stop it – we talked between every half inning, getting off the phone as the first batter came to the plate), there was no way that the Yankees would not have the winning run up at the plate at some point in the ninth. Rob buys into fate and destiny and all of that claptrap far more than I, but we both knew that whether it was destiny or simply parity, he was right. And it proved to be so. Foulke walked two guys and eventually faced Tony Clark with two outs. In a tense at bat (aren’t they all when these teams are in the ninth inning?) Foulke struck out Clark. We were on our way to game seven. In a situation in which the Yankees have so often found a way to win, we faced them down and took the victory.

We believe.

And so this is it. Whether through predestiny or the simple fact that for two years these two have been separated by a sliver, it had to come down to this. Game 7, Yankee Stadium, both teams weary, neither team putting an ace on the mound, neither team even having a starter with something resembling full rest. We will throw DLowe and Waker, likely in that order (If Francona’s first guess last night holds), and then everyone is eligible. Might we see Pedro on the mound in the ninth in the Toilet Bowl? Absolutely. Could Foulke possibly be asked to summon up another inning? Might Ramiro Mendoza or Curtis Leskanic play a huge role? Anything is possible now. The Yankees’ pitching is in equal disarray. And of course at the plate and in the field anyone might be the difference maker. Manny has been nearly silent all series. Ortiz has been the hero this week. Either might have the crucial plate appearance. Maybe Johnny Damon or Doug Mientkiewicz or Trot or Tek or Belli or Roberts or Mueller or Millar. Maybe the Idiots will be able to do it one more time. Maybe they can make history, and in so doing, rewrite some.

We believe.

It had to come down to this. I do not know if it is fate or simply faith that has brought us to this point. I do not know if it is destiny or drive. I do not know if it is talismans or talent. At this point I can no longer say. It is out of my hands. It is out of our hands.

We believe.

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#1 Comment By David Kane On October 20, 2004 @ 2:35 pm

Beautifully written.

Small correction: Jeter returned to first after Rodriguez was called out for interfence. I *think* that the rule here is that all runners return to where they started after any interference call.

#2 Comment By Derek On October 20, 2004 @ 2:44 pm

Correction made. Brainfart on my part. Good eye. ARod is a cheater.

#3 Comment By Sam On October 20, 2004 @ 2:58 pm

Your dehumanization of all things Yankees is truly breathtaking and depressing. One would hope that a man of your education and intellect could rise above such sophomoric turns of phrase as “the Toilet Bowl.” But, then again, “Yankees Suck” is about as sophisticated as it gets in the Fens.

So, what if the Yankees lose? All of us reasonable Yankees fans must face that possibility. If we do, you will claim historical redemption and, truth be told, you would have a measure of it. But not a whole measure. 2004 is one year; one year in which the Red Sox might beat the Yankees (which seems to be the Holy Grail, more important than the World Series…). And if they win, hurrah for them (you see, we can find humanity in our adversaries). But when we step back and look at the grand sweep of History (your field, no?) we can find some comfort. By any objective standard, the Yankees are the greatest baseball team of all time. They have won more World Series than any other team, and lost more than most teams have even played in. We win; we lose; but the accumulated excellence of one hundred years keeps us afloat in the most difficlt of times.

So, I say good luck to you. Can you say the same to me?

#4 Comment By Derek On October 20, 2004 @ 3:16 pm

Wow. As if I needed exhibit A to reveal Yankee fan inanity, here it comes, on the Ephblog comment boards.

“Dehumanization”? Really? Let me tell you something, Sam, as a scholar of race and politics in the US and Africa, I’ve seen and know what dehumanization is. Let’s pretend to be bright enough to be able to differentiate gibes from “dehumanization.” Let’s pretend that you are informed enough to know that calling something “The Toilet Bowl in the Bronx” is not akin to actual dehumanization. Let’s pretend, ok? Genocide in Rwanda, the Langa Massacre, the beatings of the Freedom Riders, those are examples of dehumanization. If you undersatnd sports so little that you really are not familiar with the back and forth, especially between yankees and Red Sox fans, and if you cannot grasp the emotionalism that ties into all of this, you probably ought to be leaving your whiny comments elsewhere. If you think my pieces are “sophomoric” don’t read them. I hate to drop this little intelligence on you, but I am not writing for your validation. To quote Sox GM Lou Gorman from many years ago when he was asked about Roger Clemens’ late arrival for spring training, whether you show up or not, the sun will rise, the sun will set, and I’ll have lunch.

As for “as sophisticated as it gets in the Fens,” I’ll take that one personally. If you want to do the intellectual sophistication mano a mano throwdown, I’ll take that little Pepsi Challenge. But then I guess you must have been playing your Mahler albums and lamenting Derrida’s passage last night when the police had to step out in riot gear to ring the stadium from those sophisticates in the Bronx who were throwing baseballs at the players and umps on the field.

As for my acknowledgement of the Yankees and what they have accomplished, I think I’ve granted their status and their place often enough on my Diary entries without breaking down and bowing before the shrine. At the same time to say that beating the Yankees is more important to us than winning it all, I’ll tell you what — you probably ought to speak for yourself first, Yankee fans second, and try to speak for me not at all. That we’ll be going through the Yankees will make it all the sweeter, yes. That you really think that what I have said about the Yankees is “dehumanizing” makes me think that at least my perspective is being skewed by sports fan emotionalism, but that perhaps you need a passport and a newspaper subscription. May I recommend a trip to Harare?

I thank you for your constructive criticisms.

#5 Comment By Henry On October 20, 2004 @ 9:11 pm

This is madness.
As a Yankee fan and New Yorker who is rooting for the Red Sox in this series, I couldn’t help but add to these histrionics. It’s laughable that a Red Sox fan is impugning the behavior of Yankee fans. Both teams have a ‘passionate’ following, but it’s my observation that while love for the team largely motivates the rabid Yankee fan, hatred of the evil-other (dare I say, dehumanized?) Yankees largely motivates the rabid Red Sox fan (I know this has been said before millions of times). Witness a regular season game in the Bronx with the Yankees trailing the Sox, the cheers are mainly “Let’s go Yankees;” in Fenway, with the tables turned, the cheers resound “Yankees Suck.” This all leads back to the fundamental problem at the heart of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry. The Yankees have been blessed with the history, talent, heart and soul, and yes, resources that have created the so-called “Yankee evil-empire.” The Red Sox have been similarly blessed, and retain the support of the “Red Sox nation.” But so much of this national identity has grown in opposition to all things Yankee. It’s natural that Red Sox fans would develop into small-minded jingoists and eternal victims. I support the Red Sox because they are the better team, they have the heart and soul that has faded from the Yankees of the past decade. I hope that the Sox can overcome their true curse: the rancor and parochialism that has come to define the Red Sox nation. Besides, the hairy barbarians of the North have been known to have their due.

#6 Comment By Derek On October 21, 2004 @ 6:56 am

I do not need to point out for literate people that the example of “dehumanization that was used was m reference to Yankee Stadium as “The Toilet Bowl.” Idiocy is not a virtue, folks. I’d appreciate someone pointing out to the kids who arrived on the short bus that it is pretty difficult to dehumanize an inanimate object.
Enjoy the off season.


#7 Comment By Sam On October 21, 2004 @ 8:36 am

But you still could not bring yourself to wish us luck…

Congratualtions are due; so, Congratulations. The Red Sox are the better team this year.

#8 Comment By Derek On October 22, 2004 @ 12:06 pm

Sam —
I’m not certain when you got to establish what the litmus test for respect is. I have thousands of words indicating both my loathing and my respect for the Yankees. My credentials here are clear. I do not need to wish you luck on the Ephblog comment boards for that.
Thanks for the congrats. Four wins to go.