Hoarse and Happy

Sunday’s game was the antithesis of the day before regarding the game, the weather, and our mood in Chicago as the Yankees won 8-5.  CC had a rocky third, allowing four runs and surrendering a three-run lead, but otherwise he was good and finished strong in a must-win game.  Melky hit for the cycle, sending us Yankees fans at US Cellular into a full-throated roar.  The Yanks battered Mark Buehrle and worked up the pitch counts of the Sox bullpen.  The defense was considerably better.  And, as always, it was a great and genuine privilege to see Mariano Rivera, the greatest relief pitcher of all time, enter in the eighth and work a four-out save, his 30th of the year and 512th of his incomparable career.  Plus, I got birthday surprises and gifts galore.

Be forewarned, below is a lengthy post filled with pictures.

But honestly, the day began with a completely different feel from Saturday which, if you read the previous post, was a disaster for numerous reasons.  Mulling over Saturday’s game and how upset my son was at the reprehensible behavior of some drunken, obnoxious facs around us kept me up well past midnight, then I awoke at six.  Initially, because of what appeared to be considerable sun peeking around the curtains of our room at the Chicago South Loop Hotel on 26th Street (which I would highly recommend, by the way–reasonably priced, close to US Cellular, clean, comfortable and spacious, with free wireless Internet; a good find), it appeared to be later in the day than it was.  Probably due in part to the anticipation for the game later, I couldn’t get back to sleep.

I then got to unwrap my present, which was a nice new Yankee polo shirt, midnight blue, with the white interlocking NY on the left breast–beautiful.  Coupled with my fitted 1998 Yankees World Series champions cap instead of the trusty fitted cap I normally wear, I figured it and the new shirt were a good way to bring some fresh mojo.  We checked out, had breakfast, killed time by driving around to and through the very nice waterfront and near North side, which is quiet, tree-lined, and pleasantly residential while nestled within the heart of the city.  Heading to the stadium and in about 11:45, we got the requisite snacks for the kids, a score card for me, and settled into our seats in the upper deck behind home plate.  For any future visitors, I’d highly recommend this spot, somewhere in the upper deck behind home, anywhere from dugout to dugout.  The view is very good, the prices reasonable, and the people infinitely frendlier.  As I took a picture of my family, a man with his family, White Sox fans, approached us and kindly offered to take a photo of all of us if we would do the same for him, which we gladly did with the field as our backdrop.

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As I walked the spacious concourse back to the seats after getting a beer (Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat), I ran into plenty of Yankees fans, exchanging pleasant smiles, nods, and winks with total strangers.  Little by little, it felt that it was our day.  A nice family from New York City settled into the seats immediately in front of us in section 528, showing us the photos they got of Jeter and Jorge at their hotel, mentioning that they got their autographs and that they were heading to The Stadium to see the Yanks play Boston later this week.

I have to hand it to The Doobie Brothers; they did a terrific, harmonious version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Very well done.

The view from out seats was splendid, for I was literally was sitting even with the third base line, which made it all too easy to tell fair balls from foul.  Excellent perspective, aisle seats.  I also love sitting behind home, for even in the upper deck, the loud pop of the glove on good hard fastballs is readily audible.

Things began inauspiciously for the Yanks, with Dye making his second great play in the field in the first inning in consecutive games.  On Saturday, he threw out Teixeira from the right field corner wall with a peg–on the fly–to second; brilliant throw from a player I’ve always liked.  Sunday he robbed JD of extra bases with a terrific diving catch.  Melky returned the favor in the bottom half, robbing Dye of a bloop single with a magnificent diving catch of his own in shallow center to hold Beckham, clearly a rising star, at second.  Beckham was eventually stranded, making Melky’s play even bigger.

In the top of the second, I went for snacks–a churro for my son and another Sunset Wheat for me.  As it was during last year’s game we attended, a 6-4 Yankees win April 23, when I went for concessions, the Yankees scored.  I got back after Swish’s infield single to see Cano single to left.

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Swish avoiding a pitch before the infield single.  Can my wife take a photo, or what?  That’s from the upper deck, by the way.

Continuing with his fine start in the field the inning before, Melky cranked a hanging change at the letters into the Sox bullpen in left, 3-0 Yankees.  Big, loud cheers.  Podsednik then robbed Jeter of a hit to end the frame, and Jeter could easily have had four hits on the day instead of the eventual two.  After a lead-off double by Konerko to left in the bottom half, Hairston made a smooth pick of Quentin’s hot one-hopper, holding Konerko on the 5-3 and, to me, rendering Ransom all the more expendable.  He was good all day at third.  It also allowed me to explain to the kids how great Jeter is, for he shuttled behind Hairston to third to cover the bag on the throw.  Always Be Moving.

The top of the third brought my second of three presents, with my wife and kids getting 40th birthday wishes put on the scoreboard in center field with love from them.  I was deeply touched, and they are the greatest people I know.

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Things got hairy on the bottom of the third, C.C.’s only bad inning.  Podsednik doubled to center, with Melky’s slick, quick retrieval of the ball off the wall and sharp, long throw in staving off a triple.  Melky was aces all game.  Beckham singled Podsednik home, 3-1 Yanks.  Dye sent a 2-1 hanging change up and away the other way into the Yanks’ bullpen to tie the game.  Clearly a bit stunned, C.C. grooved an 0-1 fastball to Thome, who creamed it to left to give Chicago their only lead of the day, 4-3.  After a brief confab at the mound to slow things down during the requisite fireworks, which my son enjoyed, Sabathia fanned Konerko on a nasty slider for the second out, and JD made a great, strong throw on a single to left center by Quentin to easily nail him at second to end the inning.  According to Pete Abraham, Sabathia apparently returned to the Yanks’ dugout hotter than a pistol and said to Molina, “That’s all they get.”  Until his last batter, he was dead on, for he buzzed through the lineup the rest of the way, working three consecutive 1-2-3 innings and stranding Getz after his lead-off triple in the seventh.  Personally, I thought Sabathia was much better than his final line indicated–7+ (exactly what I said that I wanted from him), 10 hits, 5 runs earned, no walks, and 5 K’s on 100 pitches/71 strikes.  He threw 46 pitches through 3, and just 54 the rest of the way, mowing down the Sox, locating the fastball far better than he did in his two previous starts, settling down quickly after a poor third–his only bad inning accounting for half the hits and 4/5 of the runs he allowed–and eventually earning the win in a must-win for the Yanks.  He was very sharp and, other than the third, scarcely threatened.

The Yanks sent us a good sign that they had fight, responding right away in the top of the fourth with runs, starting with Melky’s lead-off double.  Hairston bunted him to third, prompting my Mike-channeled concerns that the bunt would render Melky unrequited for the offensively spotty Molina.  Not to worry, for Molina smoked the first pitch, a fastball, to center to tie the game at 4.  Consecutive singles by Jeter and JD brought the Yanks the lead they would never relinquish.  Teixeira’s 5-4-3 DP ended the fourth. With C.C. angry and in control, the Yanks added two more in the fifth as I went for hot dogs.  A-Rod singled, Swish walked as I returned to our seats, and Melky the Once-Again Clutch singled in A-Rod, 6-4 Yanks, ending Buehrle’s day.  Hairston singled to right off Pena to score Swish, 7-4 Yanks.

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My son was thrilled to meet Southpaw, the White Sox mascot, in the concourse by our seats.

In the bottom of the fifth, C.C. had a speedy 10-pitch 1-2-3, abetted by Cano’s slick 4-3 to his right to nail Beckham with ease.  Nobody but nobody goes to his right at second better than Cano.  Gold Glove. C.C. caught Thome looking to start the sixth with a nasty uncle charlie, then allowed a single to Konerko.  GET A DP BALL, C.C.!! I yelled.  On the first pitch, C.C. got a 5-4-3 DP ball for an 8-pitch frame, eliciting high-fives from my wife, daughter, and the Yanks fan in front of us, who added with a point, “You called THAT one!” In the top of the seventh, the Yanks walked thrice to load the bases but didn’t score, with Cano’s K for the second out the real sin of the squandered inning.  Check out some of the photos my wife got during the seventh:

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Teixeira looking one off for a walk.

C.C. was really on the money in the seventh. After yet another slow retrieval of a ball in right by Swish gave Getz a lead-off triple, C.C. fanned Nix on two fastballs and a nasty change, got Castro on a weak 1-3, then caught Podsednik’s foolish popped bunt behind the mound to escape the jam.

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The Big Guy bearing down.

Teixeira walked and stole second in the top of the eighth, but was stranded.  C.C. allowed a lead-off ground-rule double to the terrific Beckham, ending his day as C.C. exited to a nice round of applause from us Yanks fans, subtlety tipping his cap.  The Franchise entered and immediately blew away Dye on an 0-2 fastball, 96 mph.  After walking Thome, he also fanned Konerko on a nasty 0-2 slider, filthy pitch, for the second out.

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Phil Hughes, mowing down Konerko.

With two outs, Enter Sandman for the four-out save, but not before allowing a typical Mariano hit to Quentin, a bleeder to right to cut it to 7-5, before getting Getz looking to end the eighth.

The ninth was great.  With one out, Melky stepped up a triple away from the cycle.  C’MON, MELKY!! I bellowed into a quiet stadium.  “Melky’s a punk!!” a disgruntled Sox fanned retorted.  “Melky’s about to hit for the cycle!!” a Yanks fan in a gray fishing cap and a Chamberlain #62 practice jersey immediately across the aisle rejoined.  In a great at-bat and on a 3-2 fastball, Melky crushed one to deep right center and, as soon as it landed and skidded to the wall, I knew Melky had the cycle.  We Yankee fans went berserk, and I cheered and pointed to the fan who called it and his cheering cohort just across the aisle.  Matsui pinch-hitting for Hairston was intentionally walked, bringing Jorge to the plate to pinch-hit for Molina.

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Hip-Hip, Jorge!  [Outside the box a smidge…]

Yours truly started what became a loud, sustained “Let’s Go, Yankees!!” chant going as Jorge approached home that could be heard on the WCBS audio broadcast.  After Jorge fanned, Jeter singled in Melky on a 3-2 fastball, swatting it through the hole vacated by Nix to cover the bag as Ransom ran, 8-5 Yankees.

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Mariano shut it down! 30th save this season, 512th of his incomparable career. My wife took these great shots of the greatest relief pitcher of all time. The first three are from the eighth inning, the last two from the ninth and, since they were serendipitously at various stages of his hallmark delivery, I figured I’d arrange them in sequence.  My favorite is the last–teeth gritting, tight grip, ready to snap that brilliant cutter, pushed off the rubber.  One more of The Greatest for good measure:

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A different photo from above at practically the exact same spot in the delivery.

Melky was The Man Sunday, playing what I would consider his greatest game as a Yankee–4-5, 4 RBI, batting .292 and hitting for the cycle while making terrific plays in center in a stunning all-around game.  He was the player of the game, hands-down, and I love that we saw a Yankee hit for the rare cycle in person. Jeter was 2-6 with a big insurance RBI, batting .322. He could easily have had two more hits. Hairston was 2-3 with an RBI.  Swish was 2-3 with 2 walks against his ex-team, batting .241.  Teixeira was 1-3 with 2 walks, batting .282.  A-Rod was 1-4, batting .261.  Cano was 1-5, batting .304.  Molina was 1-4 with his 7th RBI, batting .259.  JD was 1-6 with his 59th RBI, batting .276.   C.C. earned his 11th win, Hughes was good in relief, as was Mariano, whose ERA is down to 2.01 and sinking.

Great, great day.  I had hoped before the weekend to see a win on my birthday and did, willing in my head to split the two games we saw with my son, so I’m glad he got to see his team win one, too.

Yet the birthday wasn’t over yet.  My good friend Frank the Sage texted me at the beginning of the game, “Let’s Go CC clap clap clap clap clap.”  So when we got home, and after we ate and had cake, I called him to chinwag about the game but had to leave a message.  He called me back about 9:45, and I started to discuss the game when the doorbell rang, I set down the phone to answer the door, unusual to get a visitor at that time–and it’s The Sage telling me to get his bags from his car.  I’m sure my jaw dropped, totally shocked.  Apparently, he called my wife a week ago saying he wanted to visit and had some vacation time.  He wanted to surprise me at the game–and actually regardless of wherever his ticket would have been could have sat in an open seat behind my wife–but he covered a shift for a fellow store manager back in New York who has done him favors in turn, so he left for the visit later than planned.  Tremendous surprise, so we went out for a couple cold ones at a great local tavern after the kids went to sleep.  Yesterday, he too kindly gave me a Yankees pullover wind breaker, a midnight blue Rivera #42 practice jersey, and an official Yankees jersey that he wanted to have the #42 put on the back, but it wasn’t ready in time before he left for the visit, so I will take it to a local sporting goods store for the numbering.  We’ll be entertaining him for the week, and will tune in and perhaps host a Digital Living Room.

All in all, it was the greatest birthday ever by a mile.  How lucky am I to have such family and friends? I love them all.

Published in: on August 4, 2009 at 5:37 am  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I love thew pictures–the one of swish with the ball coming inside is SO great– i love the view–i think it was just perfect they got your birthday greeting up on the scoreboard ( no one did that for me at angel stadium- if any family is reading!! )

    i gotta say- every time you see mo- and every pic i have taken of him looks the same. you are so right–every pic is a duplicate. he is perfect in his repetition of delivery.

    anyway–all of us are glad you got a great W on your big day– AND got to see Mo… !

  2. Great shots. Fast-speed camera catches the ball crossing the plate. Obviously one huge lens for the great closeups. Fabulous.

  3. Now if I can ever get to Heinz Field for a Steelers game on MY birthday and have my name on the scoreboard….(I was born in football season….LATE in football season!)

  4. Awesome stuff, Jason! I’m so glad they took the final game. Now let’s see if they can get back on the winning track in Toronto against Halladay & Co.!

  5. Happy belated birthday, Jason! How did you enjoy my hometown? I noticed you talked about the near north side, which is where I grew up and trust me, it’s more beautiful than you described. The lakefront is especially gorgeous this time of year; lots of tree-lined streets and bright blue skies. You’re making me homesick now!

    I’m glad you were able to enjoy the game and even more glad the Yankees won for you. I don’t know if you’ve been reading my site the last couple days but I’ve been knocked out with the flu and now it’s bronchitis. Don’t know how I got it, but I can’t wait for it to go away.

    Also, my site hit 200,000 visitors today. So excited!

  6. The photos were really terrific Mike, and I’ve perused them a few times since Sunday just to admire them and my wife’s eye and talent. I was genuinely touched that the family had my name put up on the board. It was really sweet. That Sunday was as splendid as it was is something I will never forget. Just a banner day.

    Thanks, Mike S. Yeah, wasn’t that picture of the ball between Swish’s legs something? My wife took a couple more I did not include, but might link into a new section I’ll add on the right-hand column. One is with Jeter swinging and the ball is right off his bat, and the other is with A-Rod up and the ball just outside the catcher’s glove–crystal clear.

    You certainly got your wish, Lisa. Last night’s game was a little tense, but ultimately very satisfying, beating Halliday for the second straight time–both times scoring five runs and hitting three homers off him. Tremendous.

    Beth! I’m really sorry to hear about your illness, which to me is always more frustrating and less tolerable in the summer. What a great trip to Chicago, especially Sunday. We ate Saturday night at Connie’s on Archer, very good pizza. I’ve been to the near North side a couple times before and loved it, so when we had some time to kill before Sunday’s game, taking a jaunt around there and the lake front was a real treat, especially on such a bright, sunny day. Gorgeous part of what is surely one of the great cities of the world. My son loved seeing the gigantic Sears/Willis tower and all the other skyscrapers. I very hearty congratulations on the 200,000th hit, Beth. I believe it was in 2007 when you had 100,000 hits, no? Amazing traffic, and well deserved for you.

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