The Convert

May 11, 1997
Yankees 3, Royals 2 

One of my best friends in college was a guy named Jon, who was a teammate on the speech team.  Jon was a year younger than me and hailed from the state of Wisconsin.  As much as a Yankee fan as I was/am, Jon is a cheesehead (with the foam wedge to boot).

On the night the Yankees won the ‘96 World Series, the team was at an away tournamet in Long Island.  The team was staying in a seedy hotel in Hempstead (underneath the Fukudaya Sushi bar) and we gathered in one of our rooms to watch game six.  Everyone cheered on the Yankees victory–that is everyone except Jon.

Fast-forward seven months to May 11 ’97.  The defending World Champion Yankees were scheduled to host Kansas City and also hold ‘Ring Day’ ceremonies on a windy Sunday afternoon. My father had tickets as part of the Sunday plan, but for some reason which has been lost to time, neither King Classic nor Pete could attend.  My father offered me our four tickets, and after asking Jon, he, myself and a girl named Gail took the train into the city and then the subway to the stadium.

Like me, Gail was a Yankee fan and had been to the stadium many times before.  But this was Jon’s first time. We got to the stadium an hour or so before the ring ceremony was scheduled to begin and walked around some, showing Jon around. As we walked around, maybe it was because of the sales job that Gail and I did, or maybe because it was because it was Yankee Stadium, but Jon started to develop an appreciation for the team.

We took our seats and watched video after video of the ’96 team, followed by the ring ceremony.  As fun as that was, the game was even better.  The offensive highlight was Bernie Williams hitting a solo shot in the third, helping the Yankees cement their 3-2 victory.  David Wells posted eight-plus strong innings and Mariano Rivera, who was in his first full season as Yankees closer walked one and struck out one to end the game.  As the game progressed, Jon got more and more into cheering for the Yankees- a big change from his demeanor that night seven months prior. 

As we walked back to the subway, the three of us all got a chance to bang on Freddy’s pan.  We headed back to school, two of us longtime Yankees fans with another notch under our belts, and the third, a (at first) reluctant convert to Yankees fandom.