I’m gloatin’. Yes sir, I’m gloatin’
If there’s one baseball team I hate worse than the Cubs–and there are several–it’s the New York Yankees.
The Cubs, I can deal with; its the fans that are so annoying. But the Yankees are a different matter.
As kids in Norton (Devon and Western before the demographers and ignorant journalists called it West Ridge or something that failed to capture its uniqueness), my brother Bill (10) and I (8) were that rarity: North Side Sox fans.
We joined the hearty and lonely breed in 1950 after we discovered that Chicago actually had two MLB teams and one of them was actually a talented and interesting team that wan’t like the Cubs–always battling with the Phillies to keep from sliding into the cellar. The White Sox were always for the entire decade of 1950 in contention, battling the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians for first place.
I’ve told the story before because, well, I like it, even if you don’t. We were tried of the constant braying of Cub fans in the neighborhood. So, we not only discovered the Sox, but the existence of a South Side. Thanks to a connected uncle who knew a guy–probably at the track–we got box seat tickets with my dad behind the Sox dugout. Our first game at the old Comiskey. As I recall, it was against the Boston Red Sox and we lost something like 2-1. Maybe I’m imagining it, but we might have seen the legendary Ted Williams play.
Anyhow, unfortunately for the White Sox, they were contending for the entire decade with Yankee teams that might have been the greatest ever assembled. Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto, Don Larsen, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantel and many, many more. The expansion team, Kansas City Athletics, seems to have been created solely to trade their best players to the Yankees.
The White Sox were no slouches: Billy Pierce, Chico Carrasquel, Nellie Fox, Minnie Minoso, Luis Aparicio–not as many, but they were fighters, true representatives of a city of brawn and determination.
But every year wasn’t quite enough. The Yankees dominated the league, failing to be the champion only twice–in 1954 when the Cleveland Indians (can I still call them that?) won and 1959 when the Sox won. Most of the decade the Indians were the second most dominant team, but everyone’s main goal was to dethrone the Yankees.
The swaggering Yankees. The “you-can’t-beat us Yankees.” A friend in Milwaukee, eschewed the town’s Braves, favoring the Yankees because they were “the best.” Riding on their coat tails like so many personalities in need of an outside boost. There was even a Broadway musical, “Damn Yankees,” is which a fan of the pathetic Washington Senators makes a packet with the Devil to win the American league pennant.
And so, when today’s Yankees came swaggering out of that Iowa cornfield this week onto the “Field of Dreams,” I was hurled back to those childhood emotions. Winning was more important than the Bears beating the Packers. Or sweeping the Cubs.
I went through four cookies, two ice cream bars, handfuls of peanut butter pretzels, a dab of peanut butter from the jar. A scab was picked. Going into the top of the ninth, the Sox were comfortably ahead, 7-4. Baseball’s best reliever was coming on to put away the Yankees. I could put away the junk food. Bam. Bang. The Sox suddenly were behind 8-7. The Yankees were whooping it up, inside and outside the dugout. As if they had won–again, against a team that thinks it can beat the Yanks. Ha. Ha. How can any team come back against such a crushing turn of events?
Except. Except. Catcher Seby Zavala was standing on first having worked a walk off Yank lefty reliever Zack Britton after being down two strikes and no balls. A great at bat. The top of the order coming up. Maybe we could get Zavala around to score and force the game into extra innings. Tim Anderson, the former batting champion, arrives at the plate. A few practice swings. Yankee’s left-handed relief man Zack Britton delivers.
“I knew what I was looking for,” Andersen said afterwards. “It’s over. Once I made contact, I knew it was over. I knew it was out.” As in, out there in the cornfield.
Ha. Take that. Looking sad and defeated over there at the Yankee dugout. Tough. How does it feel? Thought you won, huh?
Even if the Sox lose the next two games this weekend against the Yankees, it won’t take the shine of the Thursday night finish. It was historic. It was the game that everyone will remember, not just for its setting in the Field of Dreams but also for the quality of the ball played, a reminder of how exciting baseball can be and the sheer drama of the outcome.
Hoping Cub fans were watching, especially those who think that Chicago was always and is forever a Cubs town.To subscribe to the Barbershop and be notified when I post, type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.