The baseball season is half over, and I've been thinking back over my own career...as a fan. To be exact, a Yankees fan.
Being a fan is something you take with you wherever you go. I notice people wearing their beat up, much loved Yankees caps out here in California, thousands of miles from Yankee Stadium. I think that your selection of your team is in the genes: Whitley’s dad was a Yankees fan, and they used to listen to the games together on the radio. He still vividly and fondly remembers Mel Allen calling the games. He first took our son to Yankee Stadium when he was eight.
One of the standard outfits in California is shorts, a t-shirt, flipflops and a baseball cap—and a surprising number of those are Yankees caps.
Wearing them is usually safe, but not always!
I remember attending a game in Baltimore way back in 1992 when their stadium was brand new and the team was looking like it was headed for the playoffs. I was getting hot dogs from a stand when I looked up at a nearby TV screen to see the Yankees pitcher apparently in the process of swallowing an emery board, which he would have been using to scuff balls. What was worse, he had shattered the wrist of the Oriole’s star catcher, Chris Hoiles, who was generally believed to be a major key to a late-season win. Whether Leary scuffed the ball or not was never known. He claimed innocence.
When I got back to our seats, I noticed that Whitley’s Yankees cap was gone. It was stuffed in our carry bag. He said, ‘if we want to get out of here alive, you need to ditch the cap and jacket.’
We hid all of our regalia. Normally American sports stadiums are nice places, and nobody minds if fans of the opposing team show their colors. But when a star player has taken a hit like that, the mood changes, believe me!
I used to have a photo showing the whole family wearing their Yankees caps. Mine was pink and white, which Whitley thought might make me even more of a target.
Anyway, we got out of there in one piece, and nobody was even slightly hostile toward us. Other people, still wearing their Yankees caps, weren’t bothered, either. But the O’s fans were pretty dejected, as they had reason to be. After that night, their season was mediocre.
Yankees catcher Matt Nokes summed up the situation pretty succinctly, when asked about swallowing emery boards that have been used to scuff balls, “they’re smooth going in, but rough coming out.”