CHARLIE BERGMANN: Yankees-Red Sox Classic Trumps Golf Plans
It took a sixth sense that Friday night's Boston-New York baseball game at Yankee Stadium was going to really be something special to pass up a trip to the office.
That's where I tell callers I am when they reach me during frequent early evening loops around the Southern Pines Country (Elks Club) golf course. Avoiding most of the ultra violet threat that has me on an every three months visitation to a dermatologist, the solo jaunts with a bag have helped me lose 30 pounds over a four month period.
The residential construction that is going on nearby has reduced the frequency of wild life sightings. But at about 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, I had one of those experiences that make the beautiful Donald Ross layout and golf in general, such a delight and hard to pass up even for a big Yanks-Sox game.
Just before hitting my tee shot to the par three seventh hole, a fawn came bounding out of the woods on the left near the green circling its mother totally enjoying the now almost solitary natural environ.
Moments later, Ross crushed me one more time when my promising tee shot hit a couple feet short of the raised green only to roll about 20 yards down the embankment. About halfway to the green, I heard a dog barking and wondered if it had caught the scent of the deer. It emerged from the woods on the same side the deer entered along with a half dozen children, frolicking in a similar manner, accompanied by adults.
The kids raced for the sprinklers spraying the sixth fairway and some fun the sounds of laughter were music to my ears.
I could have made it around the Elks on Friday in time to pick up the baseball game on the Yes Network via Time Warner by about the third or fourth inning. But, this was a big game for a Yankee fan. The Bronx Bombers had lost eight games in a row to the Sox before beating them 13-6 on Thursday. They needed to win this series, in my mind, to have any chance to come out on top against their rival in a post season dual especially with pitchers Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka, and one of their best hitters, Jason Bay not available because of injuries.
Story lines abounded in this one. Starting pitchers and friends, Josh Beckett (Sox) and A.J. Burnett (Yanks) were teammates on the 2003 Florida Marlins team that beat the Yankees in the World Series (Beckett was series MVP). Both were brilliant on this night with Beckett going a four-hit scoreless seven innings and Burnett allowing only one hit in 7 2/3.
The game continued at nil-nil into extra innings at the home run haven that is the new Yankee Stadium, At one point, Yankee color commentator Ken Singleton brought back memories of a 16-inning scoreless pitching duel between the Braves' Warren Spahn and the Giants' Juan Marichal in 1963. The game won by the Giants on a home run by Willie Mays contrasts sharply from a pitching standpoint with the game today.
Played at old Candlestick Park, the 43-year-old Spahn and the 25-year-old Marichal each threw about 230 pitches. Beckett (115 pitches) and Burnett (118) were essentially lifted from Friday's game because of pitch count.
Marichal wasn't about to be outlasted by Spahn who went on to finish the season with a record of 23-7. "I'm not leaving while that old guy is on the mound," he is quoted as telling manager Al Dark. "I remember telling myself, 'okay, just one more inning.' I just didn't want that old man lasting longer than me. But, he was incredible, and I wound up staying there a lot longer than I thought I would."
It took eight Red Sox pitchers and six Yankee hurlers to throw about the same amount of pitches spent by the Hall of Fame duo in Friday's five hour and 33 minute marathon. As Junichi Tazawa, took the mound for Boston in the bottom of the 14th inning, the telecast went to film from before the game of the rookie meeting his idol and country man Hideki Matsui of the Yankees. He bowed to him in accordance with Japanese custom.
"The one thing Tazawa knows is he's going to get a decision," Singleton said, "He's the only Red Sox pitcher left."
The first batter the 23-year-old right-hander faced in his debut was Matsui who lined out hard to right field. Before the inning was over, two Yankees headed for first base raising their arms in victory, thinking they had gotten the game-winning hit. With two aboard, Eric Hinske was robbed of a hit on a lunging catch by right fielder J.D. Drew. Then Melky Cabrera lined a ball inches foul down the first base line before harmlessly popping out to end the inning.
As Tazawa walked off the mound, the other Yankee commentator Paul O'Neill quipped, "Did you see that sigh of relief? It works in every language."
Going to the bottom of the 15th, Beckett and Burnett still had not taken a shower, and projected Saturday afternoon Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia was also eschewing a good night's sleep. Yankees' TV play caller Michael Kay estimated that only about 4,000 of the 49,000 fans had gone home.
The top four Yankees in the batting order were 1-for-26 in the game when Jeter led off with a single off Tazawa. Homer-less in his previous 72 at bats, and a disappointing hitter in the clutch over the past season and a half, Alex Rodriguez won the game with a two-out line drive home run into the left field seats.
Saturday's game was to start at 4:15 p.m. Now with a comfortable four and a half game lead over the Red Sox, I'm going to watch a couple of innings and then head for the office.
Contact Charlie Bergmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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