Welcome to Flashback Friday: Tales From The Log, a final-season tribute to Shea Stadium as viewed primarily through the prism of what I have seen there for myself, namely 367 regular-season and 13 postseason games to date. The Log records the numbers. The Tales tell the stories.
6/26/98 F New York (A) 0-1 Leiter 2 65-63 L 8-4
What are they doing here?
That’s what I was thinking when I approached Shea the evening of the first-ever Subway Series game in Queens. Why are there tanked-up, obnoxious, fat (and occasionally thin…really, someone of my stature shouldn’t make this a weight-based issue) fuck Yankee fans in our midst? Whose brilliant idea was it, two weeks after the final episode of Seinfeld aired, to clone Wayne Knight and give a third of our seats over to an army of Newmans? Who thought we needed a live rendition of those painful adidas ANSKY commercials in the Mezzanine of all places?
Oh right. Bud Selig’s.
This was the dark side of Interleague play. The bright side was one year earlier when it began. It began in the Bronx and it worked well for a night. You remember: Mlicki 6 Yankees 0. All was right with the world on June 16, 1997.
It all began to spiral to predictable hell on June 17 (a loss to the tanked-up, obnoxious fattest fuck of them all David Wells) and June 18 (Steve Bieser‘s one moment in time, but a loss nonetheless). Even when it was good, there was something wrong with it. I remember a June 16 eyewitness calling the FAN and congratulating himself and everybody else for never shutting up in the course of the inaugural Subway Series game. All that constant cheering, he said — that’s the way baseball should be.
No it shouldn’t. That’s not natural, that’s not normal. We’re not an echo chamber. We sit, we chat, we think, we contemplate the firsts and thirds of it and what we were doing a decade or two earlier in the same park and we get up to find an Italian sausage, just not as many as the army of Newmans. That’s baseball. Not relentless screaming, not a smackdown shoutoff. You want to tell me extremism in support of your team is no vice and moderation while they’re batting is no virtue? Then go nominate Barry Goldwater.
But just try to transmit that message to anybody who wasn’t listening in 1998 because they couldn’t hear. Just try to tell that to myself, because I wasn’t listening either. There were Yankees fans infiltrating Shea Stadium. They were going to make noise. They could not be permitted to make more of it than us.
So we shouted, too. We shouted twice as much. The whole night went something like this:
LET’S GO METS!
LET’S GO YANK-EES!
Looks all right on paper but we got sucked into their cadences (why pause long enough to let them get in their two vile cents?). We even got sucked into rooting en masse for Mets we wanted nothing to do with. Butch Huskey was cheered that night. All Mets had to be cheered, even if they were the scapegoats of the moment. I always cheered Butch Huskey, but I wasn’t expecting to be backed up by my fellow Mets fans. Some well-meaning dimwit even tried to get a clap-clap roll call going for Butch.
Oh the hypocrisy.
Yogi Berra, fitted in one of those snazzy new blue-brimmed black Mets caps, threw out the first pitch. He was a peace offering to all and he was greeted as such. That’s where it ended. Yogi left and the vitriol continued.
LET’S GO METS!
LET’S GO YANK-EES!
The Yankees had been sucking at Shea since Opening Day in 1998. The six-pack ticket plan of choice had been constructed so the same people who were charmed by the idea of seeing the first Diamondbacks visit, the first Devil Rays visit, the first N.L. Brewers visit and the first Orioles visit since ’69 would also be attending the first Yankees visit as visitors for something more substantial than a Mayor’s Trophy. Who’re we kidding? Nobody but the nerds like me cared about those bonus tracks. The cut everybody wanted was the first Subway Series game. That meant not just Mets fans buying the six-pack but…ugh, Yankees fans.
So Yankees Suck broke out on the first day of the six-pack, Opening Day. Yankees fans used their tickets to watch the Mets play the Phillies while still parading in what my friend Jason referred to as a) the raiment of the beast and b) the vertical swastika. They also displayed c) open mouths connected to d) deficient brains. They came to Shea Stadium five times before their team played to inform fans of the team that played there regularly that, ha, you’re not as good as us.
No wonder Yankees Suck filled the air, and that there was no room to breathe because noise polluted the atmosphere.
Al Leiter threw a strike to Chuck Knoblauch. A roar went up. He threw a ball. A roar went up. Nobody would be caught short.
We loaded the bases in the bottom of the first against the unappealing Hideki Irabu. We’re great! We score but one run on a double play. Damn.
Yankees threaten in the second. Joyously, Rey Ordoñez flies through the air with the greatest of ease and robs Chad Curtis of a hit, and doubles Tim Raines off second. balls don’t stick in gloves and maybe it’s a triple play. Everybody gasps. My assertion that Rey Ordoñez is the shortstop in New York City gains credence. Rey-Rey quiets down the unfriendly invaders. But only for an instant.
By the end of six, the Mets grudgingly led 4-3. Two DP balls, two solo home runs. Leiter squirmed out of trouble. The real battle ensued in Mezzanine, Section 17:
LET’S GO METS!
LET’S GO YANK-EES!
Everybody chanted except my six-pack guest Rob Emproto. Rob was laconic. “I won’t lower myself,” he said. “But I agree with the sentiment.”
There was a frontrunning Yankees fan in training two rows down from us. Twelve years old, I’d guess. Twenty-time World Champion Yankees cap. Six-time World Champion Chicago Bulls jersey, No. 23. Great character he’ll have, I said. “I’ll bet he’s got a blue star on his underwear,” Rob added. “I used to like the Cowboys,” I mimicked. “But then I became a Packers fan…” and in unison, “Now I’m a Broncos fan.”
Relatively non-malevolent Rob suggested that when Tino Martinez, who had been winged hard between the shoulder blades by Oriole Armando Benitez a few weeks earlier, came up, Al Leiter should “hit him in the back.” But he didn’t suggest it very loud.
One of their fans gave two middle fingers to our section for an entire half-inning. I’m not kidding.
It wasn’t too terribly violent and it wasn’t completely ill-natured, it was just unnatural, them among us. Why aren’t you in your precious Bronx waiting on line for World Series tickets? But as long as we were winning, who cared?
Then came the seventh. Still 4-3. Knoblauch walks. Mariah Carey’s ex-boyfriend bunts. Leiter fields, misses, aggravates a knee that will land him on the DL. Al leaves with the trainer, runners stand on first and second. Paul O’Neill due up.
Mel Rojas comes into pitch.
And there it goes.
Yankees 6 Mets 4.
All the Newmans are yelling and screaming, the tanked-up, obnoxious fat (and thin) fucks. Their arms are waving in “shower me with adulation” motions. They’re pointing at the NYs on their caps (they were doing this before the game, too, when it was 0-0). They huffed, they puffed and now they were blowing our house down.
Rob and I lasted through the bottom of the seventh, long enough to take in this exchange:
YANKEES FAN: I’m coming to all three games and I’m bringing a broom!
METS FAN: So you can shove it up your ass!
YANKEES FAN: Just how Carlos Baerga likes it!
METS FAN: I don’t know — you tell me!
Didn’t help our mood. Not even a spirited singalong of “Yankee fans are still assholes/doo-dah/doo-dah” could drown out the haughtiness of the interlopers nor the futility of Mel Rojas.
As we slunk out, one of the Newmans helpfully reminded us the game’s nine innings, fellas! We didn’t say anything in reply, but three-quarters down the deserted ramp, Rob came up with the comeback he wished he had spouted minutes earlier.
Well, the jerk store called and they’re running outta you.
The Shea Stadium Final Season Countdown resumes Monday at number 7.