The following is a re-print (with permission) of the Letter From The Publisher from Baseball Ink (Vol. 2, No. 1 - Jun 2001).
by J.P. Alexander
circa-1950s neon signing beaming "McHale's Bar" beckoned from the
corner of West 46th Street and 8th Avenue. Determined to sample the "true
local flavor" during this visit to New York City, my wife and I ducked in
and grabbed a couple of bar stools.
Locals occupied many of the seats. Ice cold domestic beer poured from the taps. Thick juicy cheeseburgers quickly disappeared. Autographed pictures of sports figures lined the walls. The television above the bar was tuned silently to the Yankees game.
The man next to us nodded towards the TV and declared, "They've been my obsession for 67 years."
He proudly pointed to the name embroidered on his shirt and said, "Name's Al. Where ya from?"
And as simple as that, the conversation began and continued easily, interrupted only when Al paused to listen in on his transistor radio or to contemplate whether now was the time to bring out his "lucky" Yankees cap.
"The first one I saw was DiMaggio," remembered Al. "On the field, anyway. I was privileged to see Babe Ruth after his playing days. He was giving a speech, but his voice almost gone."
As the game wore on, talk drifted to this year's starting pitching.
"Mussina was a great pickup, but he's a bird, like El Duque. Gotta handle both of those guys carefully. Pettitte, you have to pat on the back."
"Gotta kick him in the pants every once in awhile."
The discussion wrapped up with an assessment of the relationship between skipper Joe Torre and bench coach Don Zimmer.
"They go together like bacon and eggs."
I paid for our beers, shook hands with Al, and led Tracy out to see what else the Big Apple had in store for us.
Later that weekend, we rode the B train with hundreds of navy-clad parishioners to the 161st Street stop. We sat in Yankee Stadium with an energized crowd willing the home team to an improbable, come-from-behind, 10th-inning triumph over the much-loathed Red Sox. As I put the finishing touches on my scorecard, I reflected on what gifts I had been given: a fantastic wife who indulges my love for baseball, sharing time with a true fan, spending a sunny Sunday afternoon in Ruth's cathedral.
May your season be half as happy.
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