of the New
York Yankees has deep roots and many rich layers
of bitter memory to marinade and wallow in. I have hated the
Yankees much longer and more intensely than I have cheered the Boston
Red Sox, and the current matchup between the two teams, which I
quake at even mentioning for fear of adversely affecting the outcome,
the scabs off wounds still raw after years of Sports Therapy.
My memories of hating the Yankees are among my earlies and most cherished.
In those days I hated them because they annually thwarted
the ambitions of the major league team I followed in my youth, the Baltimore
grew up a baseball fan and little leaguer in Rochester,
New York, a rather
boring slice of middle America despite its reputation as a hotbed of
liberal eccentricity. There wasn’t much to do during the summer (way pre-internet)
but play and follow baseball.
The local nine, the Rochester
Red Wings, were the Triple A affiliate
of the Orioles, and I spent many hot summer nights watching them face
off with the Syracuse Chiefs, the Buffalo Bisons and the Toronto Blue
in the day the International League included Toronto, Montreal and the
Havana Sugar Kings, making it authentically international. Rumor
has it that in the months immediately after the Cuban Revolution, Fidel
Castro himself, whose failure as a right-handed pitcher at a 1950 try-out
with the New York Giants may have directly led to the Cuban Missile Crisis,
would sneak out to the ballpark and actually suit up and slip into center
field during the late innings of ball games.
From a box on the first base line at the Red Wing’s Silver Stadium I
watched future major leaguers like Mark Belanger, Dave McNally, Jim Palmer,
Mike Epstein, Davey Johnson and Boog Powell working their way up through
the system, finally arriving at The Show only to be stymied in their
(and vicariously, my own) quest for the ultimate prize by the Murderers
Row of those heartless, over-paid, insufferably conceited Yankees.
Their conceit was, unfortunately, justifiable. In 1964, when I
was 11, they had been in the World Series 14 of the previous 16 years,
and had won the damn thing 10 of those years. That
year the Bronx Bombers fielded at team including Clete Boyer, Tony Kubek, Joe Pepitone, Elston
Howard, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Their pitching staff included
Jim Bouton, Al Downing, Mel Stotlemyre and Whitey Ford. They won 99 games
and ran away with the American League pennant. Again.
That same year I organized and circulated a petition at Council Rock Middle
School, asking Major League Commissioner Ford Frick to break up the Yankees,
for the good of baseball. They were ruining the sport! There was no drama,
no suspense, no fair play. Owner Bill Veeck had a payroll twice
the league average and was able to buy the best players from all the
other teams. 57 students and 4 teachers signed, demanding that the Yankees
roster be disbanded and the talent distributed to the other teams in
When I was 18 I moved to Boston and over the ensuing years my sporting
allegiances gradually migrated to the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots,
although my hatred of the Yankees continued not only unabated, but amplified. My
personal sense of unjust persecution and Sisyphusian frustration found
fertile ground in the Red Sox decades-long quest to unravel the
After an eight-year stay in Cambridge which included the Red Sox excruciating
loss to Cincinnati in the ’75 series and numerous seasons truncated by
the dastardly dudes from the Bronx, I started migrating south myself. My
academic and personal life led to prolonged stints in Austin, Texas and
the Andean region of South America. At each stop the whole concept
of "Yankee" acquired new implications of dastardly evil. The
whole process culminated when I was kidnapped and almost killed by the
Tupak Amaru Revolutionary Movement in Peru for BEING a Yankee myself!
Shortly after this incident I returned to the US.
My hatred of the baseball Yankees has a depth and dimension that quite
honestly makes me question to my core my own concept of what sort of
human being I am. I always considered myself a compassionate person,
siblings recollections notwithstanding. If anything, I am pathologically
over-empathic. I see the points of ALL sides in a dispute, deeply.
I can find the good side in ANYONE, even, for example, someone as universally
vilified as Adolf Hitler. I mean, the man loved dogs, he couldn’t have
been all bad.
But when I look into my soul I can find no sympathy, no pity, for George
Steinbrenner, the New York Yankees and their unholy legions. If Boston
and New York were
city-states in ancient Peloponnesia, and Boston somehow managed to overcome
the Evil Empire on the field of honorable battle, I would be first in
line for the apres-conquest raping and pillaging.
Such violent emotions frighten me. Who among us know what we are
capable of when the situation around us awakens our deepest fears,
desires and hatreds? The next 10 days will be ones of exquisite torture
around the Dowbrigade household. The lovely but frustrating Norma Yvonne
has declared herself a Yankee fan, despite (or perhaps because of) knowing
absolutely nothing about the game. An iron curtain has descended across
the marital bed.
I see trouble ahead whatever the outcome. We all know the Red Sox can’t
win until Hell Freezes Ever. The Chicago Cubs are under a similar
diabolic edict. Should they meet in the Ultimate Series, it could
be a case of Apocalypse Now. Stay tuned…..