Chili Davis 1, King Classic 0

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but I figured this would be a good one to share in light of tomorrow.

August 21, 1996
Angels 7, Yankees 1

August of ’96 was a hot, humid month in New Jersey.  My summer vacation (which I worked through) was nearing an end, and by this point,  my father (King Classic) , brother (t-shirt boy) and I watched every Yankees game, hoping that this year’s run in first place would surpass the previous summer’s wild card finish.

Even though the team slumped in August, our hopes were high.  We had been to a few games earlier that year (the last year before we got the Sunday ticket plan) and my father wanted to go to the last day game before I had to go back to school- a mid-Wednesday affair against the Angels (then from simply “California”).

There was a back to school promotion going on, with all kids 14 and under getting a Yankees pencil case (containing pencils, a ruler, pencil sharpener and a few other things).  Even though I was going into my second year of college and was much taller than your average 14-year-old, the gate attendants gave me a pencil case, which I had until a few years ago.

Unfortunately, aside from a Derek Jeter home run in the bottom of the first, the Yankees’ offense wasn’t able to make it to the Stadium that day.  Even though they managed 10 hits in six innings against Jason Dickson (making his first Major League start) and another three against relievers Mike Holtz and Troy Percival, they weren’t able to bring anyone else home.

Even though the game ended up being a Yankees loss, the highlight for the day wasn’t in Derek Jeter’s home run. Nor was it in the five runs the Angels tacked on in the top of the ninth.  Instead, in that first inning, as the Angels scored their first two runs, something happened that changed us (well, more accurately, King Classic) in a deep and profound way from that day forward.

Our tickets were in the left field stands.  We were a few sections to the left of the fair pole, with King Classic sitting in the aisle seat, me the third seat in and t-shirt boy in between us. In the first, with Jimmy Key pitching for the Yankees and Gary Disarcina on first, Chili Davis hit a long fly ball that was headed our way.  It cleared the outfield wall by about 20 feet and the rest of the stadium booed as he and Disarcina rounded the bases to score the Angels’ first two runs of the game.  The ball was still headed our way, and mostly everyone in the section was on their feet, trying to be in position to catch the ball.

No one caught it.  The ball hit the concrete, proceeds to ricochet off the concrete and hits the one person not standing up for the home run ball in the arm.

My father.

After being hit by the home run ball, King Classic uttered something along the lines as “what was that?” while t-shirt boy and I laughed at him.

Someone else got the ball, but t-shirt boy and I walked away with something that will keep us laughing.

Happy father’s day, King Classic.

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.