June 4, 2008: Report from Yankee Stadium
It's thrilling to go to Yankee Stadium as an O's fan, like riding a roller coaster with a Yankee fan sitting next you, screaming obscenities. All day I watched the weather, Doppler Widget obscuring my computer screen. My friend Scooter, a die-hard Yankee fan and even die harder friend, has partial season tickets and when the O's are in town he comes calling. He doesn't mind that I root for the visitors or don Orange and Black in the sea of blue. Tonight would be a perfect opportunity to see Yankee Stadium before it goes, and to see Daniel Cabrera in the brief Oriole window of becoming a great pitcher before being traded at the August deadline.
Scooter was running late this time so instead of being there in time for the anthem, I paced outside Gate 4, passing the time by counting the fans visibly wearing O's gear (16). When he arrived, it was already 1-0. By the time we made it to our seats it was 2-0. Needless to say I was angry; that would most likely be the only scoring. Scooter made amends and said that for every run the O's scored in the first, that would be the number of beers we'd drink tonight. Two beers is about my limit, anyway.
Mussina got shelled. His stuff was on Thorazine, lumbering to the plate in slow mo, and the O's had to run halfway to the mound to swat the ball. When Brian Roberts tripled to reach base for the second time, Iron Mike was yanked after only 2/3 of an inning. Mr. Mussina, meet the new Orioles. The fans were definitely not yelling "Moose" as he walked from the mound, though it kind of sounded like it. Mussina, in a fit of maddened emotionalism, twitched his lip a little on the right side.
Wait, how many beers? Seven? Could we do it? Which would give out first, our livers or our wallets? Can I go straight to work from here? Fortunately our seats were right by the Beers of the World stand: for $8.50 a beer, it shouldn't ALL be Budweiser.
In the second inning Johnny Damon looked like a special-needs little leaguer, stumbling around the outfield and eventually dropping Luke Scott's pop up. Scooter grumbled in disgust but I screamed at him to "let me have this moment!" (In retrospect, I screamed it a little like a girl, or a girl Katherine Heigl would play in a movie). The fans were livid and frothing at the mouth. By the end of the inning two more runs were in. "9-0" I texted my brother, an O's expat living in Los Angeles. I can't remember ever seeing the Orioles up 9-0, anywhere, let alone in the Bronx. Glad we didn't base our beer tally on total runs.
Cabrera certainly had his stuff. Before the game I had boldly predicted he would throw a no-hitter, and he kept it going through four whole pitches. He settled down, and I watched him finally grow into a fiery intimidator with great control. It was beautiful.
Oops. He plunked Jeter in the hand. We could feel the hit from the upper deck as Jeter backed away wincing. Not to mock a bruised man, but let's face it, he skipped away from the plate. The trainers came out led him back to the dugout. I slyly looked around to see if any fans near me were looking for retaliation but, fortunately, everyone was focused on the field. For that matter, there was one fan far braver and crazier, wearing a bright orange jersey and cap. If things get ugly, I thought, I'm pointing at that guy. Moron.
Top of the fourth and we finished beer 2. Kevin Millar ripped one over the left field wall. As he trotted the bases to a chorus of boos, I gleefully shouted "this one's for Jeffrey Maier!" Scooter slunk to the beer vendor. 10-0 O's. Bring on beer 3. In the top of the fifth LaTroy Hawkins became the second former Baltimore pitcher in the game, and he handled the O's with great control; by that I mean he threw back-to-back pitches at Luke Scott's head. I had already forgotten Cabrera's bean on Jeter, but home plate ump Chuck Meriwether, presumably less inebriated than myself, remembered and immediately threw Hawkins out of the game. The benches cleared, the bullpen emptied, and I grew extremely still, like a rabbit in a back yard when the dog gets let out.
Bottom of the sixth, Bobby Abreu reached on an infield single, the first Yankee base runner since Jeter used his ulna to bunt in the third. You gotta hand it to Yankee fans, they will make lemonade from lemons, and much of the sparse crowd was on their feet as if Game 7 were almost in their grasp, instead of possibly reducing the deficit from 10 to 9. Maybe the cheering helped because A-Rod, fresh off his DL stint, homered over the left field wall. The sparse crowd went nuts. Beer 5, up and away.
A section over from us sat a couple of girls, one in a peculiar cap. It had the familiar Yankee logo on the front, but the hat itself was maroon and the back had a familiar "VT." Could there possibly be a Virginia Tech/Yankee connection? We asked her, and yes, by Jove, there was. The Yankees played an exhibition game in Blacksburg to benefit and honor the survivors of the attack last year. Well, that made sense. I wondered why the Orioles and the Braves, the two closest teams to Blacksburg, failed to take any action? The Yankees do put in effort. Or they're just returning the favor to the part of the country supplying most of the guns for New York shootings.
Luke Scott sent a two run blast halfway back to Baltimore. 12-2. Scooter asked if we had to stick it out until the end. I smiled, ignoring him. Unfortunately they stopped serving beer at the end of the seventh, leaving us two shy of our goal
The O's sent Cabrera out for the 8th. He had only thrown 86 pitches and even though he wasn't gunning for the shutout, he could give the bullpen another inning's rest. I was surprised that as soon as he took the mound Trembley came out and replaced him. Maybe Cabrera didn't get the memo before he left the dugout. Was there a language barrier? 'Trembley' does sound kinda French.
We had started talking to the girls behind us, who were actually expat Indian fans. In my mind this infuriated the Virginia Tech girls, but I was finishing beer 5 at this point and so "In my mind" was a subjective, damp, acrid place to be. The Tribe transplants decided to help us complete our mission, so after the game we crossed River Avenue to one of the local bars--where I wisely took off my O's hat--and we reached our goal. And that is how I will always remember the house that Babe-Ruth-from-Baltimore-Built: fuzzily looming over the shoulder of a girl from near Lake Erie whom I would never see again, the massive lights blinking out as the last vendors and fans trudged home, defeat weighing their steps and crooking their spines. O's defeat Yankees, 12-2. I burped a little, and it was good.
Posted June 4, 2008 at 4:27 p.m.