OCTOBER 17, 2003
Carrie's Short Stay In Empire City
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

Without question, the night of October 16, 2003 into the early morning of October 17, 2003 was the best seven and a half hours that I have ever spent in the South Bronx – although for a period of time therein, the prospects of having an enjoyable time appeared dicey.

Arriving at Yankee Stadium at 6:00 PM, for Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, the evening’s horizon was purely embryonic and still a virgin canvas. 

Some of you may be asking:  Showing up that early for a ballgame, two hours and eighteen minutes, before the first pitch?  What’s that all about?  To answer it simply:  That is what I am all about - nothing better than getting to the park early, meandering about the other zealous fans, taking in Batting Practice, grabbing a bite to eat before any of the action starts.  To paraphrase bumper sticker logic: A bad day hanging out at the ballpark before a big game is better than a good day at most anything else.

When Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS began, the first inning was innocuous and there was still no determinable prelude as to what was to follow.

However, by the time the game was minutes into the top of the fourth inning, the night was quickly heading towards a delayed stopover in Crapsville.  (And, for those who have not yet ascertained the slant of this tale, this is a Yankee fan yarn.  My belated apologies to any of you who were expecting some other view herein.)

Rocket Roger Clemens did his best mound impersonation of Charlie Brown – getting thoroughly undressed by the blistering blasts off the bats of the Red Sox bats.  New York trailed Boston, four to nothing, at the end of four innings.  Clemens was out of the game and Red Sox starter Pedro Martinez was having no difficulty with the Yankee batters.  Things were looking good for the Red Sox Nation and they were feeling positive about it - as demonstrated by several nearby vociferous Red Sox fans, members of Navy personnel in uniform, who had purchased standing room only tickets, as they began a chorus of “Na, Na, Na, Na-na-na-nah, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye” when Clemens was removed from the game.

At one point thereafter, my father (who was my game-mate) relayed an observation to me that summed the game to that moment rather appropriately.  While on a restroom stop, Dad overheard a fellow Yankee fan, who was belly up to a urinal in the men's room, despondently talking to himself out loud - probably seeking relief in as many ways as possible in one moment - muttering “It’s like a freakin’ Steven King novel out there.”

During the sixth inning, with the score now four to one (in favor of Boston), I began to ponder as to whether or not there was a “Scrawling On The Scorecard” feature that could be taken from this experience.  Basically, I was trying to take away something of value (please, anything!) from this potentially sour game.  Initially, I thought about “something” (perhaps a rant) related to having back-to-back “All Wildcard” World Series (as it appeared the Wildcard Red Sox would make the 2003 World Series - to face the Wildcard Florida Marlins - with a victory in this game). 

Soon after that, there was one brief and noteworthy interlude (or at least I thought so) at the Stadium.  On the Yankee Stadium Diamond Vision screen, located in right centerfield, where the Yankees run birthday and anniversary best wishes – as well as marriage proposals (all for a price) the following message appeared:

“[Woman’s Name – I can’t remember what] – Will you civil-unionize me?  Love, [Woman’s Name – I can’t remember what]”

It is true!  It is true!  Every time you go to the ballpark, you have the chance to see something you have never seen before!  That was the first “civil-union proposal” that I had ever seen at Yankee Stadium.  (It may not have been the first ever; but, it sure as heck was the first for me.)  Like I said, I was looking for anything buoyant at this point, albeit even diminutive and unrelated to the game.  Shoot, a first is still a first, no?

Still, while this was an eventual unique anecdote, it was hardly a platform for a stand alone “Scrawling On The Scorecard” feature.  I was still going with the "All Wildcard" theme unless something else came up.

When the Yankees’ Alfonso Soriano struck out for the fourth straight time in the game at the end of the seventh inning (with the score now four to two, Boston), I began to think about something perhaps tied into that - - coming up with equitable tortures for performing so terrible in such an important situation.  Images of force feeding razor blade sharp sucker candies followed by thick salt water chasers came to mind.

The night truly was becoming “a freakin’ Steve King novel,” indeed – on the field and in my mind.  Everything was getting ugly.

But, before long, in the bottom of the eighth inning, the fortunes of the evening changed dramatically.  With a three run rally, the Yankees tied the score at five runs and had forced the Red Sox’ Pedro Martinez from both the game and the victory column.  Three innings later, the fourth “B” in the line of Red Sox fan lamentation was born:  Boone! - - as in Babe, Bucky, Buckner, and Boone.  New York had won the game, six to five, on Aaron Boone’s lead-off long ball in the bottom of the eleventh inning.

At 12:30 AM, now October 17, 2003, we were wildly celebrating in the stands at Yankee Stadium.  It was Fat Tuesday (except it was now Friday morning) at a pinstriped Mardi Gras.  (And, for the record, the aforementioned “Naval Bosox Mens Choir” had beat it out of the Stadium before Boone rounded first base.)

Why were we so delighted?  At one level, it is simple:  ALCS Game 7, Red Sox, and Pedro.  Those three reasons that speak for themselves when it comes to a Yankee fan.  On a much higher level, this was the first time since October 15, 1925 that a team had come back from a four run deficit in a Game 7 post-season game to win.  These types of events do not happen everyday, for sure.  This was history we were having the pleasure of witnessing.

How joyful a time was it?  For some perspective, consider that it took me close to an hour, following our leaving the Stadium, to exit the two-story parking garage where my car was located.  And, the entire time behind the wheel, stalled in an automobile version of a snail conga line, there was an abundant and persistent smile on my face.  Physically stuck in a car?  Yes.  But, also walking on air on in every other sense outside the realm of the corporeal world.  I probably could have undergone root canal at that moment and not been distressed.

There is an old sports line about “winning” where the claim is made that (when you win), your food tastes better, your woman is prettier, etc.  Personally, to all that, I can now add: “and a full day in the Bronx can turn from a near session in Hell to a totally saturating and long lasting state of bliss.”

As I pen this, some-twenty-one hours later, and over fifty miles outside the Bronx, the residual wake of the experience is still providing a rapture zone around me.  Happy, happy, joy, joy - and, of course, something to scrawl on the scorecard about...........

Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com.  Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season.  Steve can be contacted at sots@netshrine.com

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