I don’t believe in jinxes. But I do believe in facts, and a long-established fact in our family has been that the Yankees never win when my traveling companion is in the ballpark. Ever.
So I was a little concerned about taking her with me to new Yankee Stadium this week to watch the Yankees and Rays play. But I had never been in the ballpark (I know it’s a few years old now, but it’ll always be new Yankee Stadium, won’t it?) and hadn’t seen the Yankees play live for a few years. So we got Yankees tickets because, all kidding aside, I really don’t believe in jinxes. Besides, if you believed the weather forecast, we might not see a game at all.
We have a bit of a dispute about how many times she has seen the Yankees play. When we lived in Kansas City, I had part of a season-ticket package for the Royals, and traded tickets with others to see as many Yankee games as possible when they visited. Our three sons accompanied me to some of those games, but their Mom also claimed her share of the tickets. I figure she attended a game a year, which would be seven games in all. She claims it was one or two. Whatever it was, she never saw the Yankees win.
I remember one game particularly well: We lived in the Kansas suburbs, nearly an hour from the park in heavy traffic. I would call when I was leaving work, pick up my companion and head to the park, arriving just in time for the game. I got pretty good at the timing, but this particular evening, my companion was not ready to go when I got home. We left late and the game was starting as we crawled off the exit from Interstate 70. We heard Dave Winfield‘s grand-slam homer from the parking lot. The Yankees led 5-0 when my companion entered the stadium. And they still lost.
Let’s get one thing out of the way quickly: Whether this is jinx or coincidence, it’s not me. I saw the Yankees win many times in Royals Stadium in our Kansas City days (they weren’t yet calling it Kauffman Stadium then). I saw Tommy John‘s last major-league win. I saw the Yankees win a playoff game in Royals Stadium in 1977 before I moved to Kansas City. An elimination game. If they lose, their season is over. But they won that night and the next. And later that month Reggie Jackson smashed homers on three consecutive pitches to wrap up their World Series win. I also have seen the Yankees win in old Comiskey Park (12-6 on a Don Baylor grand slam in the 12th inning after Billy Martin, Tony LaRussa and Carlton Fisk had all been ejected), Toronto’s SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre) and Baltimore’s Camden Yards. In the Toronto game, the Yankees had already clinched their division and rested most of their starters on the season’s final game. But Bernie Williams played and led the team to victory.
Even on the road, where teams don’t win as often, I see the Yankees win. A lot. Except when I’m with a certain traveling companion.
That loss at Yankee Stadium bears special mention. I am a lifelong Yankee fan, a Yankee blogger, who did not make it to baseball’s most hallowed cathedral in the first half-century of my life. But in the year of my 50th birthday and 30th wedding anniversary, our oldest son and his wife gave us a great present: tickets to a Yankees-Red Sox game at old Yankee Stadium, as well as air fare to New York and a nice hotel room.
I entered the historic stadium with my traveling companion, expecting to see history made. And we did. The Yankees lost, 17-1, their worst whipping ever by the Red Sox. They set some other humiliating record, such as the most hits the Yankees had ever given up. Like Yogi Berra, I believe it ain’t over till it’s over, so I hung in there till the last out, so I wouldn’t miss the Yankees’ greatest comeback ever (I didn’t).
Here’s how bad it got:
Lots of Red Sox fans came to that game. This was 2005, the year after the Red Sox vanquished their supposed curse by sweeping four games against the Yankees after being down three games to none. Red Sox fans came to Yankee Stadium that Memorial Day weekend hoping to pour it on. Our seats were down the left-field line in the upper deck. Sometime in the second inning, a few young men came by, asking if we and the couple next to us would trade seats with them. They had tickets in the family section, where no beer is sold, and they wanted to have a few beers together at the ballpark. We had already had a beer, and I don’t drink many at ballpark prices, and the seats were much closer to the action, still in the upper deck but behind third base.
Other Yankee fans, apparently not remembering Yogi’s admonition, began clearing the ballpark as the game got out of hand. Finally, the Red Sox fans (who must have hung on Yogi’s every word) clearly outnumbered the Yankee fans. When we were about two touchdowns behind, security had to escort a Red Sox fan several rows behind us out of the stadium. He had been urinating on Yankee fans. In the family section.
That game in particular, my only home game, might have been revisited conversationally a time or two as we prepared for this week’s game. But still, I was optimistic. After all, I don’t believe in jinxes. The law of averages was strongly in my favor. The Yankees are the winningest baseball team of all time. They had held the Rays to just a run in the first two games of the series. Yankees’ ace C.C. Sabathia, tied for the league lead in wins, was on the mound. And what were the odds that one fan seeing them play something like 10 times would never see a win?
Despite some banter about previous games, I was frankly more worried about the weather forecast, which called for scattered thunderstorms. As we got off the B train and started walking to the ballpark, one of those storms began. I normally hurry past the souvenir stands, but a young man hawking pinstripe ponchos got a quick 20 bucks from us.
We made a point to arrive an hour early, so we could see Monument Park, which had been closed when we arrived at the old stadium in 2005. Well, they closed it early (never did hear why, maybe the weather?) Thursday, so I still haven’t seen the monuments.
But the new park has a Yankee Museum that we wandered through. Mickey Mantle, one of my boyhood heroes, has a huge exhibit, chronicling every year of his career. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig get their due. World Series trophies are displayed. A guy with a Thurman Munson jersey was taking a photo of his son by the trophies. My traveling companion offered to take a photo of the two of them together. I told the fan about my blog, where I explain why Munson belongs in the Hall of Fame. A few minutes later, we were looking at Thurman Munson’s locker.
Because of the downpour, the museum was crowded (we had to stand in line a while to get in), so we didn’t browse the way we normally might. But it was nice to soak in a little Yankee history at the new ballpark.
The rain eased up as we ate our hot dog, sliders and garlic fries, and we headed to our seats for the start of the game, just a half-hour late.
Sabathia pitched well, striking out 12. But still the Yankees trailed 5-1. Two of the runs were unearned because of a throwing error by Alex Rodriguez.
Again I had a chance to see some history. A-Rod could atone big-time in the bottom of the fifth inning. The bases were loaded and he was stuck on 22 career grand-slam homers. One more and he would tie Gehrig for the major league record. Facing Rays’ ace David Price, A-Rod fouled off pitch after pitch. But after an 11-pitch at-bat, he returned to the dugout, a strikeout victim.
However many times my companion has seen the Yankees play, they now have one more loss. And no wins.
We did some other things while in New York, some nice dinners and a Broadway play (“The Columnist,” starring John Lithgow). But I’ll let my companion write about the rest of this trip. She probably won’t have much to say about the Yankee game.
She acknowledged being a jinx in a tweet today:
Well @stevebuttry is a rental car line. I may be a jinx for the Yankees, but no one has more travel woes then Steve.
— Mimi Johnson(@mimijohnson) June 10, 2012
Those travel woes are a topic for another blog post. My next one. About our trip home from New York.