Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yankees Milestones: Jeter and Grandpa

Last week, Gary and I witnessed a Yankees' milestone when Derek Jeter earned his 3,000th career hit. The hit itself could have been straight out of a Hollywood movie script: full count, Yankees trailing by one at home, Jeter at bat -- all eyes and cameras on him when... he hits a BOMB that blasts out of left field - soaring Jeter into history. What made it even sweeter was that hit 3,000 was the first home run Jeter had at Yankee Stadium in about a year, he went 5 for 5, and had the game winning RBI in the 8th inning. Jeter is only the 28th major leaguer in the history of the game to get 3,000 hits - and the only Yankee. Even if you don't like the Yankees, you have to admit that Jeter joined the exclusive 3,000-hit club in style.

Earlier this season, there was another milestone at Yankee Stadium - I got to take my grandfather to a Yankees game for his 88th birthday. It was even more special because I was able to also share the day with Gary and my two cousins - all three of whom are HUGE Yankees fans.

Grandpa at his First Yankees Game at the New Stadium

My grandfather grew up as an Italian immigrant in Brooklyn - rooting for the Yankees for as long as he can remember. He only got to see one home game at the old stadium as a young man, and has pretty much watched every Yankees game on TV since. During my grandfather's second Yankees home game - he was in awe of not only the new stadium, but also of the entire "food culture" that has since developed around the game. As people got up and down for sushi, cheese steaks, garlic fries, beef nachos etc... he stared in wonderment:

"Are these people here to watch the game or eat?" he asked.
"Both" I said, while sipping a gourmet latte.

My grandfather went the traditional route and had a hot dog, which he said was the best hot dog he ever tasted. We too had the perfect game - with late scores from all of his Yankee favorites, and a win for the home team. It was a great day at the ballpark.

A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz. - Humphrey Bogart

I love baseball, and I follow two teams: the NY Yankees and the SF Giants. This will never change. Both of these teams represent the majority of my life, split between NJ & San Francisco; they are my "home teams", and I have spent hundreds of hours with friends and family on opposite coasts cheering for them both.

My sister once asked me why I love baseball so much. I guess because it's a simple game and a complex one:

- every at-bat starts as a one-on-one match up - until the batter wins, and then it turns into a 9-player team game;
- any team can come back at any time;
- fans can wear a part of the professional uniform (baseball hats) every day of the year;
- if a team is ahead, they still have to play their hearts out, and can't just "keep possession" of the ball to win;
- it's played on grass fields, under the starry nights of summer;
- the nit-picking-stats are mind-boggling - like an ultimate never ending Trivial Pursuit game;
- the clock does not determine who wins, skill does;
- and there is always a chance of catching a ball at a game, just like a real major-league star.

Bruce Catton said that big league ball was "the greatest conversation piece ever invented in America". Maybe that's the best reason for loving baseball; when I see young kids at games talking with their dads about a hit-and-run play, it reminds me of sitting on the couch as a little girl with my grandpa - feeling like a grown up because he and I would yell the same things at the TV when the guys in pinstripes did something wrong - or something extraordinary... both of which usually happened in every game.

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