NEW YORK -- ... yes, they have a way. A way of making you enjoy yourself while they sneak in and take the game away from you.
The Yankees beat the Cubs 9-6 tonight at Yankee Stadium. That means the Cubs' losing streak at the historic ballpark reached five (two in the 1932 World Series, two in the 1938 World Series, and tonight).
And yet... and yet... I had a good time tonight.
When I walked into Yankee Stadium they were handing out little trucks sponsored by, of course, one of their main sponsors, a local office supply company called W. B. Mason. It was supposed to be for kids only. I asked the usher at the gate if I could have one for Mark back in Chicago. She gave me one.
Now can you imagine such a scenario at Wrigley Field?
Of course you can't, and that's just how they lull you into thinking they're just going to treat you great, and you're going to come out of there thinking great thoughts about New York, and darned if they're not right.
But let me start at the beginning of my day. I'm staying about 20 miles north of Yankee Stadium, and when I got here I checked a map and discovered I was only two miles from the Connecticut state line.
Light bulb! I decided to drive there, to pick up some tickets for the $43 million Powerball drawing tomorrow. Nice drive, too, past some very nice homes, past the Pepsi corporate headquarters in the oddly-named town of Purchase, NY, to a liquor store right across the street in Greenwich, CT, which sells lottery tickets.
And then it was off to the Bronx. And traffic. And more traffic. And more traffic. This is, after all, the largest metropolitan area in the country, somewhere around 15 million people, twice what there are in the Chicago area, and so running into traffic isn't that surprising -- even going in the opposite direction to what you'd expect.
So it took an hour to drive what should have taken thirty minutes... but my friend Manny from ABC in New York, who I was meeting at the game, was also late, stuck in traffic coming from Queens, and so meeting him across the street from the Yankee stadium bleacher entrance was no problem. I parked across the street in a lot for $12 -- and thought that was a great bargain. Comparison point: in 1999 at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, I paid $20 to park in not nearly as nice a parking lot. Then I walked over to the will-call windows to leave tickets for a BCB reader who e-mailed me earlier this week (Richard -- I hope you enjoyed the game anyway!).
Manny, who said he hadn't sat in the bleachers since he was about ten years old, was surprised to learn that they don't sell beer -- at all -- in the Yankee Stadium bleachers. Good thing, too, in my opinion -- that, and the fact that there are NYC police stationed everywhere, keeps the crowd good-natured and into baseball rather than acting stupid.
Finding my seat in the LF bleachers about 15 rows behind the Cubs' bullpen, I met a lovely couple from far west suburban Elburn, which is near St. Charles. They are partial-season-ticket holders at Wrigley Field in section 218, and spent their day in New York touring the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I gave them BCB cards and told them they might wind up here -- so welcome! Welcome also to everyone else to whom I gave a BCB card Friday night in the Yankee Stadium bleachers.
Enough of pumping up the tourist trade for New York.
To sum it up simply, the bullpen failed tonight, and failed miserably. There were two points at which the game turned.
The first was Will Ohman coming in to face Hideki Matsui with a runner on base and the Cubs still leading 6-5. Carlos Zambrano had gone as far as he could -- I told everyone around me that A-Rod, batting before Matsui, was going to be his last batter whether he retired him or not (he didn't -- he hit an RBI single, scoring [future Cub??] Gary Sheffield, who had doubled just down the left-field line).
Matsui had singled in a run earlier in the game, but had also been induced to hit into a neat double play in the fifth. Ohman couldn't do the job -- Matsui hit a line-drive homer into the right-field seats, giving the Yankees a 7-6 lead.
The other bullpen failure was Mike Remlinger's, and for this I suppose you can blame Dusty Baker. He summoned Remlinger to face Matsui with two runners on in the 8th.
Now, to be fair, there really wasn't another choice here. Would you have brought in Rich Hill, a rookie, to face the lefty Matsui? I didn't think so. But Remlinger, who gets eaten alive by lefthanded hitters, wasn't a great selection either, with the bases loaded, and predictably, he gave up a line-drive double down the RF line, putting the game out of reach.
All of this happened after the Cubs scored six unanswered runs in the 4th, 5th and 6th, erasing an early 4-0 Yankees lead. Cub fans were almost the majority in the LF bleachers where I was sitting, and a few chants of "Let's Go Cubbies!" were loud enough that they had to be booed down by the Yankee fans in the sellout crowd of 54,773. The Cub offense looked good for those three innings, which included a two-run single by, of all people, Henry Blanco. I reminded Manny that he had just witnessed 1/3 of Blanco's season RBI. He, on the other hand, was engrossed in conversation with the couple from Elburn about some old players from the Kane County Cougars.
The Yankee fans I talked to -- all of them friendly, incidentally; the image of the ugly Yankee fan is simply a false one -- thought they were getting off easy by beating Z today, and maybe they were. Z ran up another unsightly pitch count (116 in less than seven innings) and walked five -- this is something he simply can't do if he's going to be the staff horse he must be until Kerry Wood and Mark Prior return.
This notwithstanding, Glendon Rusch has thrown well this year and Sergio Mitre has been lights-out his last two starts, so there is still hope. The Yankees are a good team and they showed why tonight -- Matsui isn't someone you'd think of immediately when you think of the top hitters in baseball, but the five RBI tonight give him fifty for the season.
Till tomorrow. And can we agree that Enrique Wilson ought never to see a spot in the starting lineup again?