Let's Play Three!
Yanks, Sox and a Green Monster memory
Can you feel it in the air? The electricity, the magic, the pure adrenaline of baseball in the fall? No? Then you aren't in New York or Boston.
Things are going to be baseball heavy around here today and this weekend as the Yankees and the Red Sox face off in a season-ending series that will determine which team gets the division title.
Can the Yanks rid themselves of the stink of last year, turning tables on the Sox to re-capture the rivalry crown and perhaps restart the dreaded curse on Boston? Or will the Sox carry on from last year and lord it over the Yanks once again, setting us up for an entire winter of gloating and that special Boston brand of arrogance?
The Yanks are in first place as of right now, one game ahead. Will this come down to the proverbial wire, with a one game playoff on Monday? That would be rock and suck at the same time, as I don't know if my nerves could handle another game like that.
Another game, you say? Why yes, there was another one game playoff many years ago between the two teams. In fact, Sunday marks the 27th anniversary of the day Bucky Dent became Bucky Fucking Dent. Am I going to tell that story again? You better believe it. Today is the perfect day to retell such a grand tale.
October 2, 1978. Junior year at my Catholic high school. Because the kids in my school came from all over Long Island, we would often stay after school, hanging out in the front lobby or the grass by the side of the parking lot instead of asking our parents to drive us all over creation.
The previous August I had a sweet sixteen party, one of those dress-up, dancing affairs where we played nothing but Who records and my friends got in trouble for sneaking Vodka into the pitchers of soda.
Those drunken friends, Kevin, Tim and Chris, had chipped in to buy me a wonderful birthday present: a portable radio. Keep in mind this was in the days before boom boxes. This radio was small, had no cassette player or 8-track player, just an AM/FM radio, which was all I wanted. Their intention in getting me this particular present was so I wouldnít rush home after school during the baseball playoffs - I could stay after and hang out with them and listen to the games (which used to be played in the afternoon) on my portable radio.
On October 2nd of that year, there was a one-playoff game for the AL East title. Yankees. Red Sox. Fenway. This is what baseball was all about. This is the stuff that rivalries are made of.
I listened to most of the game in front of the school while everyone else was smoking or starting fights or whatever it was we did in those days. I held the radio up to my ear and did a play-by-play for everyone who was interested. As the game wore on the tension grew, everyone gathered around me on the lawn and I turned the volume up. And then the late bus came. I had to leave them all there, scrambling to find another radio.
My school district didnít give us private school kids our own yellow buses. We had passes that allowed us to take the public buses for free. So for the four miles home, I had a bus full of commuters gathered around my seat, crossing their fingers, praying, waving lucky rabbits feet in the air.
The moment happened when I got off at my stop. It was a 1/4 mile walk to my house, down one straight road. I had the radio up to my ear again as Dent came up to bat. My heart was beating fast, my nerves were tingling. I went into a half-run, hoping that I could make it to my house - which I could see all the way at the end of the block - before anything great happened. And there was no doubt in my mind, I felt it in every nerve in my body, that something grand was about to happen.
The only reason the Yanks left Dent in to hit in the seventh inning of a game they were losing 2-0 was because they were out of spare infielders.
Before his home run, Dent fouled a ball off his foot, hopping around in pain and asking the trainer to come out and take a look. After walking around a bit, Dent decided he was OK and went back into the box.
Mickey Rivers was on deck, and the Yanks leadoff hitter had been closely observing Dent the entire time. While most everyone in Fenway Park was watching Dent grimace in pain, Rivers noticed that the bat Dent was using was the same one that Rivers had used earlier in the game ó and Rivers knew the bat was cracked. He grabbed a bat-boy and sent him to the plate with the bat he was holding, and Dent took the new lumber despite being in the middle of an at-bat.
And then it happened. Dent swung at a Torrez fastball. It was going, going, gone. A three run homer. I donít even remember the call of the play on the radio because I was whooping it up, all by myself on the sidewalk. I heard the happy roar of a man coming from inside the house I was passing. I was literally jumping in the air. I broke into a sprint and ran the rest of the way home, where my mother, who was the source of all things Yankees for me, was standing in the kitchen, waiting for me. High fives all around. The Yankees went on to win, 5-4.
If you are not a sports fan, there is no way I can explain that feeling to you; there is no adequate way to describe the pure adrenaline, the joy, the exuberance of listening to the call of Dent's home run. It wasn't just that the Yankees won, it was that they beat the Red Sox. In Boston. In a one game playoff. It was so in-your-face, so perfect, so fairy tale ending, that - for a day or so at least - you didn't care what happened in the games after that, because you just experienced the pinnacle of being a Yankee fan.
Bucky Dent sails one over the Green Monster. My number two moment on my list of Greatest Sports Moments Ever - and just the beginning of what could be a perfect weekend; the leaves are changing, the weather is absolute fall and the Yankees are facing the Red Sox. It just doesn't get better than this.
Update: The YES network is showing the Bucky Dent game right now! I won't be able to leave for work until I see the home run.