Jewish World Review May 24, 2002/ 13 Sivan 5762


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Impressive, but still in second | A generation ago, during that miraculous drought of New York Yankees' world championships from 1963 until 1977 (book-ended by Series losses in '64 and '76), when the likes of Roger Repoz, Horace Clarke and Tom Tresh played out meaningless seasons in the Bronx, ballpark giveaways were first introduced at Yankee Stadium. These come-ons are ubiquitous today, even with successful franchises, but back then, I believe, it was Bat Day that started off the marketing practice. And unlike the freebies today-crummy one-size-fits-all caps, bobble-head dolls, team calendars and other souvenirs that keep Chinese factory workers on the shift round the clock-the bat was a solid perk, suitable for pick-up games in the neighborhood.

The kids and I cringed while watching Roger Clemens pitch another gem on Sunday afternoon, shutting down the Twins 3-0 with 13 strikeouts, and while that was no fun at all my sons were tickled at receiving Derek Jeter replica bats. It was a friendly crowd: an amiable woman seated next to Junior engaged him and MUGGER III in conversation about The Simpsons and SpongeBob, while I blabbed with two rabid Yanks fans in the row ahead of us.

One of the guys cracked me up when Jorge Posada came to the plate by yelling, "Georgie's got the juice!" When the clutch hitter whiffed, I leaned forward and said, "Yep, there's a glob of juice right now in the catcher's mitt." That didn't go over too well-not to mention the boys wearing their Red Sox hats and warmup jackets-but as the innings progressed and we chatted more about this season, the dump that's called Shea Stadium and Hall of Fame candidates, the glacier melted and we got along like Orrin Hatch and Teddy Kennedy.

This fellow was at the Stadium last Friday night, in the sleet and rain, and was one of the few spectators who remained till the bottom of the 14th when Jason Giambi-in his breakout moment as a Yankee-hit a grand-slammer to win the game.

Meanwhile, the Bosox took two of three from the Mariners last weekend, maintaining a two-game lead over New York and heightening the anticipation for their showdown this weekend at Fenway Park. Ever the pessimist, I'd take a split in the four contests. Boston journalists, however, giddy with the new Sox ownership, current Major League-leading record and the magnificent play of Johnny Damon, Pedro, Shea Hillenbrand, Brian Daubach and Rey Sanchez, to name just a few, are getting way ahead of themselves.

It's not even Memorial Day. Still, Globe metro columnist Brian McGrory, a regional laughingstock, is already waiting on line for World Series tickets; and, get this, he has mixed feelings about it.

Last Friday he wrote: "I want them to win more than anything else. I think. Something nags, and here it is: What happens when we've finally won it all? Of course, the city would grind to a halt. Grown men would cry and drink champagne. We'd come together through a fortuitous bond the likes of which we'd never known. The Patriots proved the wonderfully mysterious impact of sports on a collective psyche. Multiply that by 10 with the Red Sox.

"But then what? Do we risk becoming another St. Louis, Oakland or Cleveland, a city whose best sports days are behind them, a place that is only trying to recapture the glory it's already known? Do we become just another line in a baseball encyclopedia: 2002 Champions, Boston Red Sox, squeezed between Arizona in 2001 and maybe the Colorado Rockies in 2003?"

On the off-chance the Sox win the Series this fall (and I agree it's their best shot since '86)-unless a strike wipes out the postseason-let McGrory cry in his mug of Sam Adams beer. I'll be in a rhapsodic trance for a week and thinking repeat-dynasty!-for 2003.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith