Friday, September 23, 2022

Eight game lead in loss column, magic number down to six, and yet the pressure only increases

What a night! The only problem: Aaron Judge's epic, electrifying, late-inning, 404-foot blast died at the CF wall. Damn. I thought it was gone. So did the crowd, the camera crew, and the Fox midway barkers. For maybe two full seconds, the world thought his HR- chase was over, he'd done it, and Yankee Stadium was about to go up like Krakatoa, East of Java. 

A two-second glimpse into Pandemonium. 

Damn. It's been a long time since NYC lavished unconditional, all-out love on a single Yankee, (who was not waving goodbye and walking into the sunset.) You go back to the moments after Jeter's dive, or maybe Coney's perfecto, or Reggie's third homer, or the death of Thuman, when Bobby Murcer took over. Surely, I'm missing a few, but for an incredible two seconds last night, I felt the Yankee Rapture. I leaped from my seat and shouted. Few events in this world elicit such a response. 

Hopefully, Judge will do it tonight - no. 61. If it wins the game - dear God - it will become one of those memories we take to St. Peter, to let him know that - heaven or hell - we'll at least have a story to tell. 

In the meantime, this we know:

1. I cannot get over the resemblance of Roger Maris Jr. to his dad. First time I saw the guy, I thought Roger was alive, though I knew otherwise. I hope the family is enjoying this, though they hardly look jubilant when the camera finds them. Last night, as Judge's rocket soared to CF, the wife grabbed her husband's hand, and it looked like a "Thank God this is over!" moment. I would think this is getting stressful and, perhaps, painful. I wish them the best.

2. Bear with me here. I'd like to remember their father. I was nine when he broke Ruth's record. By then, I'd been programmed to be a Yank fan. My favorite cartoon stars were Mickey Mouse and Yogi Bear, and how could I NOT root for "the M&M boys?" In Waverly, NY, a nowhere town between Elmira and Binghamton, the local cable TV outlet broadcast that fateful 154th game - Ford Frick's dirty trick with the asterisk - and my dad that night let me stay up late to watch. 

Maris had 59 HRs and one night to beat the Babe. At one point, he blasted a long HR that curved foul. Then he hit a towering fly that - just like last night's - died at the track. In the final inning, the Orioles brought in Hoyt Wilhelm, the famous knuckleballer, to pitch. The announcers rattled off an incredible stat, how Wilhelm never gave up HRs. I thought it so unfair. They brought in their best pitcher, just to make sure it didn't happen for Roger. 

He tapped a slow roller to first, then hung his head running to first. As he turned to the dugout, the entire Yankee team rushed out to hug him. I started crying. That night, I couldn't sleep, too filled with hatred for Baltimore, for what those bastards did. (Thirty years later, I watched every episode of The Wire, thinking - "Suck on it, Baltimore; how does it feel now?") I still remember the feeling in those moments when that long fly ball looked like it was gone... damn, like last night. 

3. Okay, I cannot ignore yesterday's secondary news: The end of Miguel Andujar's Yankee era. At first, I was angry. I still believe Miggy will hit. Some team will give him a chance, and he'll be a late-bloomer - a Bill Robinson, a Jose Bautista, a Dante Bichette - and the Yankees will once again look like the cruel, billionaire-owned, dehumanizing corporate entity that - well, basically - they are.  

But look: I get it. Andujar was not going to get a shot this season. By next spring, he would be even further down on the depth charts. He had no hope as a Yankee. But it hurts. 

He was gonna be a great one. We followed him for 10 years, back when fake scouts were touting his radar gun numbers on throws to first. The thing about the Yankees is that - for every great moment, like the ones listed above, there are generations of future stars who collapsed in front of us. They gave everything they had. It wasn't enough.  

I wonder sometimes: Is it us? Do Yankee fans simply put too much pressure on them?

4. Which brings me back to Judge. Dear God, the pressure. You felt it every time he came to bat - Pandemonium as a five-tool monster. The five-tools: 

a. The homer chase.
b. Yankee Stadium
c. The Redsocks
d. Clinching the division.
e. Win the Triple Crown

Oh, regarding the Triple Crown, here's where he stands...

But wait... then - here's the truly, nastiest trick - THEN, when it's over - assuming that he sets the record, that the Yankees advance, everything - THEN COMES OCTOBER. His mission will only be starting. If he goes 0-20 in the ALCS, that's what they'll talk about next spring. 

Roger Maris learned this. His hair fell out. He chain-smoked. It led him to an early grave. 

Dear God, let Judge have a better fate.


Rufus T. Firefly said...

The carmines tragic number is down to four. With a little help from the Seattle non-jogginsons, against the Kansas City Campbell's Cans, there could be a confluence of celebration.

I know, I know. Only to be crushed in October. But at least we'll have Paris.

JM said...

Wait. Duque, you had cable TV in 1961? Did I read that right?

I had never even heard of it until the 70s. And Schenectady was a pretty fair-sized city back then.

TheWinWarblist said...

I have no personal memory of Roger Maris, and when my father spoke of him it was of how the ASTERISK has the correct and righteous thing to do. The * always seemed like a shitty small-minded mean-spirited thing to do, as if Maris was intentionally disrespecting the memory of Babe Ruth. Mantle had an incredible season that year too. Would they have hung the asterisk on Mantle too? Or any of the other men who had 50+ HR seasons? Was Maris reviled when he was playing, say the way Bonds was?

Stop talking about magic numbers. It's pointless and childish. The only number that matters is 11 post-season wins. Everything else, excepting Judge's HR total, is meaningless.


ranger_lp said...


This might partially answer your question about Maris...

But it wasn't about "The Clear"...

ZacharyA said...

Moving on from Miguel Andujar at this point was the right call for the organization, but I just wish for his sake, they had moved on earlier. I wanted them to trade him last offseason, but instead they wasted another year of his career, stuck in AAA with a handful of sporadic callups. What a shame.

Back in 2017, Jackson "Clint" Frazier was ranked the no. 39 prospect in all of the minors by Baseball America. In 2018, Miguel Andujar was ranked the no. 59 prospect in all of the minors by Baseball America.

Instead of using either as key pieces of a championship team or trading either for a star player who could help us, Cashman and Co. just bumbled along. I remember when the Pirates asked for Miguel Andujar in return for Gerrit Cole before shipping him to Houston. Cashman said no. It always seemed like Cashman was stuck in the middle: Frazier and Andujar were too valuable to trade but also not good enough to play.

There were other factors as well. Frazier dealt with concussions. Andujar dealt with the shoulder injuries. Maybe those injuries ruined their potential, I don't know. Frazier has been horrible with the Cubs AAA team in Iowa this year. Maybe Andujar is heading down the same path.

But I always felt like Cashman's indecision with these young players hurt the team and their careers. And we've seen it before.

It's why I'm worried about Jasson Dominguez, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe, the new crop of Yankee prospects. What happens when Cashman decides they're too valuable to trade but also sticks them behind a veteran player in the depth charts?

The cycle begins again.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

Spot on Zach.

The Hammer of God said...

Dominguez & Volpe, I'll believe in them when they come up and play well. Til then, just a pipe dream.

We've seen Oswaldo Cabrera for a bit now & he looks like a keeper! Oswald Peraza, we haven't seen enough to say, but he looked good the few chances he got.

The Hammer of God said...

I thought that Judge fly ball was gone too, but I think the wind must've knocked it down. It looked great off the bat.

el duque said...

Hey, JM,

Back in the early 1960s, Waverly was a test market for a thing called "Cable TV." We got eleven channels - an unfathomable number - including WPIX, which was expanding its relationship with the Yankees (and pro wrestling. Some day, I'll tell you about watching the Nazi, Hans Mortier, battle Bruno Sanmartino.) Created a hot zone of Yankee fandom in the middle of Southern Tier Nowhere.

The Hammer of God said...

Clarke Schmidt yesterday pitching backwards, throwing nothing but junk. What's up with that? He has a mid '90s fastball. Use it.

John Smoltz noticed it too. Said basically gotta use the fastball to set up the off speed, Yankee relievers trying "to spin" everything. Trevino did a great job to get out of that jam, throwing heat mostly.

Rufus T. Firefly said...


Thanks for the link. Reinforces my opinion that too many (not all) sportswriters are just wanna be 'athletes' who are jealous of the real athletes.

HoraceClarke66 said...

You called it, Zach. This is far and away the most annoying thing about Cashman. Time and again, he will neither play nor trade players.

Part of it seems to be the Yankees' ridiculous prioritizing of the over-the-hill, mediocre vets they have acquired and overpaid—and then say regarding, "Well, look what we're paying him!"

Part of it is Cashman's first priority, which is never, ever, ever to look like he's wrong.

But whatever it is, yes, it destroys one player after another to no good purpose.

The Hammer of God said...

Failure to develop young players. Took almost an epic collapse to bring up Oswaldo Cabrera & look how he's playing now. He's taken over LF! Wouldn't it have been a better decision for the franchise to bring up Cabrera a bit earlier and then maybe we don't need to trade for Benintendi? Nothing happens here until the shit hits the fan.

Pocono Steve said...

I've said it before, but it reminds of how we had to be tortured by endless Tony Womack in 2005 before Cano had to be called up, and if I recall correctly, it was basically a panic call-up as was Wong's the same year.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Gotta disagree about the "asterisk"—starting with the fact that it never existed in real life, only (like Jimmy Carter's use of the word, "malaise") in the minds of the media.

As I see it: A different season means a different record. Period.

Sure, the extended, 1961 season was only 8 games more. But that's about 5 percent longer. If that's not different, what is? 10 percent? 25 percent?

LaDainan Tomlinson holds the single-season, NFL scoring record at 186 points. He set that record in 2006, playing in all of his team's 16 games. Second is still Paul Hornung, who scored 176 points in 12 games—or 1/4th shorter. Are those the same seasons?

Sure, games change, and there are all kinds of differences. Babe Ruth didn't play in a major leagues that allowed Black or most Hispanic players, etc.

But it seems to me that if you're literally not allowed to play as many games, that's a different season.

HoraceClarke66 said...

And great piece, Duque. Maris was a very complicated guy. For starters, did you know that he changed his name? Initially, it was "Maras," but he got tired of how people mispronounced it.

I wasn't old enough to follow the 1961 season. But I used to borrow his account of it from my local library, and read it over and over again during the Yankees' plague years. I felt very sorry for him: all that harassment from the media, the fans horribly rooting for Mickey over him, etc.

And much of it was true. He was treated shamelessly—and I was happy to be in the ballpark on Opening Day, 1978, when he was honored and got a standing O. He smiled and waved, and seemed pleased.

But Maris was already a very angry guy by 1961—for understandable reasons, as it turned out—and brought a lot of his troubles on himself. He never gave up a grudge, never walked away from a fight. When cranky old Rogers Hornsby, then coaching with the Mets—and an irascible SOB if ever there was one—got on him about his low average, they had it out in the papers for days. So it went with many of the writers.

The Yanks—and the fans—also treated Maris miserably near the end of his time in NYC, when x-rays failed to pick up what was a broken bone in his hand. Houk and management put it out that he was jaking, and Maris was so incensed that he tried to play through it—permanently damaging the hand and losing his power at just 30. They then idiotically traded him to St. Louis for Charlie Smith, maybe the worst ballplayer I have ever seen.

Less well-known is how Maris broke that hand in the first place when he and several other Yankees got into a barroom brawl in Florida, with a "male model." I HOPE this was not an episode of gay-bashing—but I worry that it might have been. And it was surely unnecessary. And very typical.

Why was Maris "the last angry man," as some of the press box wags dubbed him?

Well, it seems that he had the parents from hell. Mom kept leaving the family and kept having affairs, not necessarily in that order. The family moved constantly—in part, it seems, to avoid the embarrassment.

Dad, for his part, always thought Roger's older brother—and his favorite—was going to be the big sports star. As it happened, the brother blew his knee out playing college football—but that didn't stop Dad from sounding rather mystified when the reporters showed up, telling them over and over that big bro was the real star.

A good part of Roger's extreme touchiness in 1961—and throughout his career—seems to have come from those wonderful parental units. He was petrified that the writers would discover and publicize just how dysfunctional his family was.

Joe of AZ said...

Doesn't that remind you of what Montgomery was saying

Mildred Lopez said...

Waverly, hot bed of...something I'm sure. I live about an hour south in the Northern Tier, which is somehow south of the Southern Tier. Worked for a while in Sayre at the hospital there.

el duque said...

The Robert Packer Hospital, a source of pride in The Valley.

That's what they call it: The Valley.

There is no other valley, anywhere.

EBD said...

Maris hit his 59th homer in that 154th game in Baltimore--he did not come into the game with 59. He needed two homeruns in the game to tie the Babe, but the wind was blowing in from right field. Here's the original TV call by Mel Allen:

EBD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DickAllen said...

Um… El Duque, the place I live in Southern California, the San Fernando Valley, is known as THE VALLEY - home of the legendary Valley Girl.

So, there’s two. But only two.

TheWinWarblist said...

Hudson Valley?

DickAllen said...

And then there were three.

But, technically speaking, no one calls the Hudson Valley, The Valley.

At least I don’t think so.

DickAllen said...

But I could be wrong. I’ve been known to spew opinions from the back side