in the Bronx

This post is kind of expired, being that it’s really only about games 3 and 4, but hopefully better late than never.

I love Yankee Stadium. It’s really one of my favorite places on earth. Because I catch every Angels game there, I experience it more as the Angels’ home field than Angel Stadium, which I rarely visit.

I went to games three and four of the ALDS this year at Yankee Stadium. Game 3 was sort of a fun house ride, with Randy Johnson serving up batting practice and then the Yankees staging their mid-game rally. I went to game 3 with my dad (who had flown into town from Nevada just for this) and my girlfriend, both Yankees fans. We all had our thrills but I of course was the one who was happiest when the Angels’ punished the Yankees’ remarkably shallow bullpen.

I was in Angels red, probably inadvisable and everything, but there were a few others of us around, holding our ground in enemy territory. I was heckled and jeered but most of it was funny and good-natured (it’s not the Red Sox, after all) and suprisingly a couple fans sitting around us revealed mild appreciation of the Angels. (One of the guys behind me muttered, when Steve Finley squeezed in Jose Molina for a 9-6 lead, “that’s good baseball”.) On the way out, a couple of Angels came up to me and showed me their sacred totems; a ball given to him by Bartolo Colon, another one signed by Tim Salmon for his wife. Then he said I should hide my cap or the drunken subway fans would kick my ass. I didn’t, and they didn’t.

Game four was different. (I went to that one with just my dad.) It had a much more savage feel about it. The fans were booing each player (especially Figgins, Vlad, and GA) as the lineup were announced. And while game three was wet, it was at least warm, game four was wet and chilly. Nasty. Uncomfortable. The Yankees were on the brink, and the fans were out for blood.

I didn’t have any friendly chitchat with my neighbors. I also didn’t see any other Angels fans, save for the few seated near the Angels’ dugout. I was literally a red speck in a sea of navy blue. I continued to be heckled and jeered, but it was a little edgier, more threatening. I think I heard “Angels Suck!” about eighty five times. (Can’t they mix it up a little? It’s kind of predictable.) I mean, I know I was asking for it; I’m not complaining.

The crowd was seriously pumped. From the very first pitch people roared with each strike thrown by Chacon. But then Lackey came up, similarly stifling the Yankees, and then it was “quiet…too quiet.” Major tension.

The Angels really didn’t play that well. Granted, give Posada props for perfect throws to nab Figgins and Guerrero at second. (The fans exploded for those.) The Angels’ running game has really backfired on them in this series.

When the Angels went up 2-0, there was suddenly a deathly pall over the crowd. But it still felt tense, engaged; it wasn’t like when the Angels quickly rallied to reclaim the lead in game 3, and you could just feel the air go out of the place. (And, I must say, out of the Yankees themselves — they just seemed to have given up, which I didn’t expect from them.)

Anyway, when the Yankees finally scored on Lackey and then pounced on Scot Shields, the energy was euphoric, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more oddly alone at a baseball game. It was the exact reverse experience of when I went to see Game 2 of the 2002 World Series in Anaheim, when I was swept away in the insane collective fan energy. That was there at Yankee stadium that night, only I wasn’t part of it. I was alone, on my red island, left out.

With all that energy, the crowed got REALLY pissed when Torre came out to pull Chacon. He’d been a certified hero after the misery of Randy in Game 3. I’ve never seen Torre booed before. As it turned out, of course, Torre made the right move (or at least the move he made didn’t cost them). We pretty much spent the entire last three innings of the game on our feet. When the 8th inning started with the opening strains of “Enter Sandman” you could feel the certainty of Yankees victory. I didn’t count the Angels out, at all — but you could feel it.

Rivera was awesome. The Yankees won. The fans were joyous. My dad was happy. We each got a game. And, of course, then that meant there was still another game to see, if on TV. Start spreading the news…

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