In case y’all are missing it, you need to find a local rugby bar and check out the World Cup of Rugby. This could be the year that… well, nothing great will happen until the quarterfinals. But the early games are fun. The U.S. almost knocked off Fiji, which is a bonafide second rate rugby power. A buddy of mine is playing for Tonga. And an England lock, or anybody with South Africa, could snap and start throwing punches and shoulder charges indiscriminately. It’s thrilling.
Speaking of punches, it’s good to see the Yankees slipped by Boston. All is right in the world; the Yanks are in the World Series, and the BoSox and Chicago Cubs are… well, out golfing in Florida. Everything is as it ever has been, and as it always should be.
I was worried about the Yanks for a while there. After a decent divisional semi playoff series, their bats stopped working. Mike Mussina was criticized after he threw 7 innings of three run baseball, and had the temerity to complain about a lack of offensive output — the Yanks only managed two runs. Thing is, Moose was right.
I needn’t have worried, however. The Red Sox are the Red Sox. They know their fans, and know that their fans would desert the team if they could manage to win the big one.
Then there’s karma, or ghosts, or God. Whatever it is that governs the universe, has decreed that the Sox shall not win. It’s like gravity. We can posit alternate universes where there is no gravity, and where the Sox win — but everybody knows that it’s just make-believe, and absent a waiver of every known scientific and legal principle, it ain’t gonna happen.
Now I’ve only been a lifelong Yankees fan for about 40 years. That counts 36.5 years of breathing air, 9 months in my momma’s womb, and three years or so when I was just a glint in my daddy’s eye, and Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were pounding the ball out of the park. My cousin, on the other hand, has been one for about 55 years, and he counseled me after the BoSox won game six. “Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s not a tragedy until they’ve won at least three, and had their hearts ripped out. In fact, look for a late inning Yankee comeback.”
I was despondent during game seven, as the Yanks trailed into the eighth. Sure, Giambi hit a couple solo dingers, and it appeared that he was out of his slump. But big whoop – we needed him in game three, not here.
But then some things happened, and all of a sudden, the Yanks tied it up. I was still despondent – Tim Wakefield, the non-sweaty non-panting non-tired knuckleballer was in the game, and the Yankees can never hit him. That, and the Yanks were just fresh out of good pitchers, and a knuckleballer can throw that floater all night, or at least until an enraged batter charges the mound and clubs him like a baby seal. So it still looked bad.
Then it happened.
After the game, it came out that as the eleventh inning started, Derek Jeter told Aaron Boone and a couple other players, “If we can just wait long enough, the ghosts will come.” He was referring to Ruth, and Gehrig, and Mantle, and DiMaggio, and Billy Martin, and Munson, and the other killers that have packed Murderers’ Row over the years.
Then Boone – hitting .125, or one-for-every-eight-at-bats – got ready to hit. He was oh-for-four or five on the evening, and hitting worse than he’d ever hit in his career, in the biggest game of his career. Yanks manager Joe Torre pulled him aside just before he left the dugout to hit.
Torre passed on a bit of advice about batting slumps he’d received 33 years earlier. The advice came from none other than Ted Williams, a genuine hero of a man, who also happened to be a great baller, and the best hitter, by far, who ever lived. He was also the greatest Red Sox player ever, by far. Well, okay, maybe Babe Ruth was, but Ruth left after a few seasons, and really only became truly great with the Yankees.
Williams told Torre that if a hitter was in a batting slump, he ought to drag the bat a bit, and try to hit it to the “opposite” field – a lefty should try to hit it to left field, and vice versa for a righty. Williams claimed it always worked for him, and indeed, it forces a batter to keep his forward shoulder down — line drive and peak power hitting position.
So when the slumping Aaron Boone stood up to go bat, Torre passed on this little tidbit of advice from the greatest Red Sox player.
The rest is history. Boone cranked the ball so hard, that people heard it cry in Poughkeepsie. The Yanks tore the living heart out of the Red Sox yet again, like some deranged Aztec priest in the cult of the Sun-God. Red Sox fans started miserably muttering yet again “well, there’s always next year”, and crying. And Yankees fans exulted. Meanwhile, the other constants remained the same; the accelleration of gravity remained at 32 fps/ps; the area of a circle remained pi x r squared; and the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle remained equal to a squared plus b squared.
As usual, the Red Sox fans have some misery to chew over for the next 20 years, and the Yanks will exult in this win only until the next game, and next prospective win lurks on the horizon. Like the other great teams in sport – rugby’s New Zealand All Blacks, Manchester United in kissball, the Los Angeles Lakers in basketball, and Miami college football and Kentucky in college hoops – Yankees wins are a physical constant in the universe. They may have a little losing streak for a couple years, never failing but slumping a bit – but then the physical laws of nature, and yes, perhaps the ghosts, take over and restore glory to these giants.
So it has always been, and so it always will be.