Honestly, I dread the Subway Series, and I don't particularly like to go — I've got anger-management issues as it is, so being confronted with braying Yankee fans in the flesh, instead of at the safe remove accorded by TV, isn't the best idea for me. Winning? It's marvelous, sure, but it comes with a certain sick sense of relief — and losing to Satan's minions, then having to ride the subway home with their adherents, probably takes a month off my life each time it happens. I don't know how our Brooklyn Dodger forebears did it for all those years in the 50s. I really don't.
But you never leave a co-blogger to face the forces of darkness alone, and this was my '06 Shea debut. And besides, to quote the Replacements, “might even win this time…you never know.”
The biggest problem, though, was the forces of cold. You want October baseball? This was November baseball — when it got quiet you could hear the flags around the perimeter of the upper deck snapping in a 35-mph wind. For entertainment between innings, we watched the foul pole rocking back and forth. (Its sole connection to anything stable seems to be a guywire hanging in a rather limp smile between it and the rest of the stadium, by the way. I'm sure there's no possible issue there.)
And we watched the crowd, a decidedly odd beast tonight. Our section was the lair of a long-haired Yankee fan who kept doing something up there above our heads that would incite the rest of our section, which would turn and chant “Asshole!” at him until they got tired, after which the Yankee fan would start doing something else. Shea's crack security guards kept showing up, only to be left peering up the aisle quizzically, vaguely disappointed to find nothing particularly wrong — antisocial behavior and bad language galore, but no fights and the crowd seemed to be handling things themselves. Until the ninth, the goon squad's one reward for its vigil was busting a guy who let go of a hot dog wrapper too close to the edge of the upper deck — not a particularly sensational crime on a night when pieces of plastic and paper were whipping by at approximately Mach 3 every 20 seconds. Then, in the ninth, the long-haired Yankee fan started doing the Tomahawk chop, and for some reason (possibly the sale of 45,000 beers in the section) this relatively minor offense was what set the crowd off. Some sort of last straw was added to the pile, the Yankee fan got hauled out, then a Met fan got hauled out, then somebody got the bright idea of hucking a bottle (one of those ridiculous light metal ones now in vogue) at the departing Yankee fan. Not smart when there's one guy being frog-marched out by eight goons — unless you're Bob Gibson (and sober), you're going to hit a security guy. Predictably, a moment later there were security guys cascading through the section screaming at people and frothing at the mouth as we all dove for cover.
This will seem like a laugh line after the above, but it was the best Subway Series crowd I've ever seen. Seriously: Our section had its share of morons (most of them, alas, in orange and blue), but they were all cheerful morons, and the catcalling and trash talking was high-spirited, lacking the angry, looking-for-trouble edge I've seen before. (High point: Every failing of A-Rod's was met with booming chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!”) One Met fan came unhinged in the men's room and started howling at some random Yankee cultist, but everyone from both sides just shook their heads and laughed. Even the Mini Malice at the Palace that finally engulfed our section was more fan goofiness that finally went too far than it was actual rancor.
Which isn't to say this was a night for anyone who wanted to pay close attention to the actual game, or who believes in temperance, or who had kids in tow, but I've seen far worse crowds. (And lest we go overboard on thinking of the children, the eight-year-old a couple of seats down attending his first game — yes, really — was openly and unapologetically thrilled by the bad language and brief violence.)
Oh yeah, the game. The recap won't show that after Derek Jeter's single eluded Wright and Reyes and gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead, I hurriedly removed my hoodie, then my road blacks, and put them on in reverse order, with my colors out. Lo Duca immediately got on, Beltran followed, Delgado hit a three-run shot and Wright hit a drive that was so Piazza-off-Mendoza ridiculous that it might have decapitated a feral dog out chop-shop way. I will now wear some variant of this ensemble at all times, and accept everyone's gratitude for this timely bit of luck-changing. Sure, the eighth inning got scary, but luckily A-Rod came to the plate, and since the Yankees weren't up 10 or down 10, he was all but guaranteed to come up small. (A pull at the lucky now-outside-the-sweats colors sealed the deal, natch.) And then Billy Wagner emerged to the glee of Yankee fans and the defiant, frightened encouragement of the rest of us, and it all turned out OK.
Then out of the stadium and onto the subway and a chance to rediscover one of my favorite parts of the aftermath of a game: The 7 was packed, the 2/3 platform at 42nd fairly full, and then as the 2 headed downtown each stop subtracted a few folks in blue and orange, until finally I reached Clark Street and wound up with the couple of Met fans who happened to have been on my train and live near me — an accidental momentary family, in this case, of a younger guy also in road blacks and an older woman whose tote bag bore our colors.
“Long game,” she said. “But a good game.”
“Yeah — great game!” said the kid.
“Could be warmer next time,” I said.
They looked at me.
“But it was worth it,” I said as we went our separate ways into a grueling but triumphant night.