Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Right (Pinstriped) Earth, Vol. 4

Things are getting pretty heavy and gloomy around here.  Time to continue our saga of a better place, where the Yankees are always gallant, gracious, well-mannered, hustling, and above all, invincible!

You'll recall that when we last left our story, Brian Cashman, general manager of the Boston Red Sox, met a tragic fate trying to rappel up the side of the Green Monster, adorned in a Paul Revere costume.  Dark rumors had it that his rope was cut by the new BoSox GM, Alex Rodriguez.

Now, we return to the executive suite at Yankee Stadium, where Yanks President, GM and former record-setting manager, Buck Showalter—21 consecutive world titles!—is reminiscing with crest manager Hensley Meulens after the team's back-to-back, 2017-2018 titles.

"Its funny the little things that can go right or wrong and shape a team's whole destiny," Buck was ruminating, now into his third shot of 1792 bourbon.

"For instance?" asked Meulens, making rings with the smoke from his second Havana.

"For instance, did you know the Yanks were on the verge of firing Casey Stengel?  True story!  They were going to force him out after the 1960 World Series."

"For real?  Why the hell would they ever do that?  Why, he held the record before you did:  18 pennants, 17 World Series rings—'

"Swear on my mother.  They were afraid of losing Ralph Houk."

"Who?"  Hensley looked genuinely perplexed.

"Ralph Houk.  A coach they were grooming to follow Casey.  I met him a time or two after he retired.  Nice guy, managed the Tigers and the Red Sox for years.  I think he won a division title once in Detroit."

"And they were going to can Casey for him?"

"Yep.  Then, Yogi hits that famous home run in the top of the 16th at Forbes Field, and Mickey guns down the tying run in the bottom of the inning for the final out.  They just couldn't fire ol' Case after a win that dramatic, seventy years old or not.  So he stayed on until he slipped and broke his hip in 1965.  By then Ralph Houk had walked, but they brought in Yogi, and he won all those Series."

"Wow," said Meulens. "I never knew that."

"It's true.  By then, CBS had come in.  They didn't know what to do with the Yanks at first, just saw them as another way to expand their portfolio.  But then Bill Paley's stepdaughter, Amanda Burden, pointed out how the synergy of a great team and the leading TV network in America could really work well together.  That's how she became the first female executive in baseball—and we just kept winning and winning."

"Huh.  No wonder she's president of the U.S. now!"

"But you know what?" Buck leaned in, a mischievous grin playing around his lips again.  "The biggest break we ever got came when this lunatic in Cleveland bought the Indians."

"Huh?  How did that help us?"

"That's what I'm getting to.  It was 1973, and some blowhard in the shipping business bought the Tribe from Stouffer, the frozen TV dinner king."

"Frozen TV whatsis?"

"Before your time.  Be grateful.  Anyway, it's always the way.  This bloated idiot—Steinbrenner was his name—thinks he can run the Indians better than any of the baseball people there."

"They always do.  My wife reads their stupid little blogs sometimes.  'Get this guy, don't get that guy.  The game is all about the fans!'  Sheesh!"

"Right?  All this Steinbrenner had ever owned was a basketball team—not even in the NBA!—and he ran that into the ground.  So he buys the Indians, and about two minutes later he's canned Gabe Paul."

"Not Gabe Paul!"

"The one and only.  So of course Ms. Burden scoops him right up.  Paul knows just who's for real and who isn't in the Indians' organization, and pulls off one deal after another.  Nettles, Chambliss, Eckersley.   That's how we got all those guys.  And what's more, it was Paul who stocked the front office to succeed him.  When he was ready to retire, in came Pat Gillick."

"Of course!  But hey, what happened to that Steinbrenner guy?  He must've blown sky high."

Buck gave an evil chuckle.

"Oh, he did, poor bastard!  He got so desperate after that, he brought in Billy Martin to manage for him.  That was just nuts, of course, as it always was with Billy.  But Steinbrenner kept thinking he could make it work, kept firing Martin and rehiring him.  Finally, fat old George just broke.  Took off all his clothes and ran into Lake Erie, howling like a maniac!"

"Oh, right, I've seen that YouTube video!  So that's who that was!"

"It was quite a spectacle.  And after that came the investigations, the bankruptcies.  The jail term.  Why, it broke the whole family."

"Poor devils."

"Oh, yeah.  Even after crazy old George passed, the kids couldn't get out from under.  You know, a few years ago, I ran into one of his sons, Hal or Hank or Biff or something.  He was living under a bridge outside Cleveland, and surviving on food stamps."

"Food stamps!"

"Can you believe it?"

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