Baseball BeatJuly 25, 2005
Fathers and Sons
By Rich Lederer

I went to the Yankees-Angels game on Saturday night. The front row seats behind the third base dugout were courtesy of my longtime friend, Glen Bickerstaff. Glen and his son Brian invited my brother Tom and his son Brett, along with my son Joe and me to the game. There were six of us in total. Three fathers, three sons. A fathers and sons night at the ballpark, if you will.

My wife stayed home and watched part of the game on TV. She said we were featured on the big tube from time to time. Maybe not as often as Kobe Bryant and his women, all of whom were sitting in the same row and aisle as us. In any event, I haven't had any agents call me yet so I must not have stood out too much. Or, on second thought, maybe I did stand out and that's why they're not calling. Either way, the opportunities to flash our pearly whites were somewhat limited as the camera pointing in our direction from the first base dugout rarely had the green light on. Understand, it's mostly used when right-handed batters are up and there were only six in the starting lineups for both teams combined.

Glen organized a home run pool whereby each of us threw five bucks into the pot and drafted two players. Whoever has the player with the most HR that evening goes home the winner. We decided to draft in order from youngest to oldest. Hey, I gotta give those youngsters a chance.

Name      Player      Comments
Brian     Matsui      My pre-season pick for A.L. MVP
Brett     Guerrero    How can you go wrong with Vladi?
Joe       Martinez    Tino slugged 10 of his 15 HR between 5/3-5/15
Glen      Rodriguez   The "second-best player ever" according to Glen
Rich      Posada      Nothing more than a hunch bet
Tom       Jeter       May have more chances than anyone
Tom       Anderson    Guaranteed not to walk so why not?      
Rich      Giambi      Swinging the hottest bat of the bunch
Glen      Sheffield   Standing out like a sore thumb
Joe       Finley      Best of the rest
Brett     Erstad      I guess inside-the-park HR count, too
Brian     Molina      Sentimental pick

Tom jumped out to the lead when Derek Jeter hit a home run to right-center field in the third inning. (Doesn't Jeter hit everything in the air to the opposite field? Put me in charge and I would deploy a shift that would make fans think Ted Williams was at bat.) And while on the subject of hitting tendencies, Glen believes Garret Anderson is one of the biggest guess hitters of all time. He pulls everything to right when he's on the money and either strikes out or flies out weakly to left when he's wrong.

Robinson Cano followed his double-play partner with another four bagger, giving the Yankees back-to-back homers and a 3-1 lead. However, the rookie second baseman wasn't chosen in our pool, so no harm, no foul (at least to us pool participants).

Mike Scioscia wasn't sweating matters either as he went out and gave Ervin Santana, his young pitcher, a pep talk. Bud Black, the Angels pitching coach, visited the mound in the first inning, presumably to offer an opinion on Santana's mechanics. Scioscia, who doesn't visit the mound that often without bringing back the pitcher with him, had no intention of pulling Santana.

With Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield coming up next, I'm quite certain that the Angels skipper didn't want Santana to feel sorry for himself, lose his focus, serve up a couple of more dingers, and let the game get totally out of hand. Given that Kevin Brown was on the hill for New York (and offering nothing more than a big name from the past rather than an intimidating pitcher at the present), Scioscia wanted his 95-MPH fireballer to bear down right then and there in order to keep his team close. The Angels have been known to mount a comeback or two under his regime. Can you say Rally Monkey?

Santana escaped the inning without allowing anymore runs. Adam Kennedy and Chone Figgins--suffice it to say, two players who weren't picked in our pool--led off the bottom of the third with walks. After Darin Erstad flied out to left, Vladimir Guerrero stepped up and deposited Brown's second pitch over the center field wall. Brett was on the board. My brother and nephew were working the rest of us over really good at this point.

The Halos knocked Brown out of the box in the fourth. Joe Torre turned matters over to Alex Graman. Now, I've heard of Alex Grammas before but never this guy. Oh well, the lefty was making his first appearance of the season and only the fourth of his big-league career. He gave up a double, an intentional walk, and a run-scoring single while facing four batters. Exit stage left. Felix Rodriguez came in and retired Bengie Molina on a groundout, stranding two runners. Angels 8, Yankees 3.

New York scored another run in the top of the fifth to make it 8-4. The managers were going deeper and deeper into the bullpens as Esteban Yan and Buddy Groom held the opposing sides scoreless in the sixth. Looking at the scoreboard, I noticed Yan's stats and wisecracked, "There's no way he has an ERA under 4."

Sure enough, Jason Giambi took him deep over the CF wall with a monster blast that not only put the Yankees within striking distance, it got me on the board, too. It was the 16th time the former opposite-field singles hitter from Long Beach State went yard this season and his 11th in the past 16 games. Yes, you read that right. In case you didn't know, this guy has been on fire in July (.379/.507/1.034).

With the score now 8-6, the Yankees sent in another biggie with the appropro name of Aaron Small. Where do they find such pitchers? A 33-year-old with a career ERA over 5 makes me want to start loosening up my arm a bit. Oh well, he got the Angels 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh.

Speaking of non-descript Yankees, how about Bubba Crosby (not to be confused with Bobby Crosby)? Glen asked how he could play CF for the Bronx Bombers, following in the footsteps of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, and Bernie Williams. Heck, even Rickey Henderson patrolled that hallowed ground at Yankee Stadium from 1985-1987. However, not every Yankee CF has been a Hall of Famer. I mean, let's not forget Bobby Brown, Henry Cotto, and Victor Mata. Dare I mention Roger Repoz?

Despite allowing Jeter to get another one of his ugly singles to right field (his fourth hit of the game--all to the opposite field), Scot Shields did his job and kept the Yankees off the scoreboard in the eighth inning. Francisco Rodriguez handled the heart of the order--Sheff, A-Rod, and Godzilla--in the ninth with ease, nailing down his 24th save of the season while lowering his ERA to 1.82. K-Rod gave another one of his patented fist pumps after the Angels beat the Yankees for the third straight game.

We stood and cheered, then exited the stadium without squaring up. You see, it was never about the money. Instead, it was about three fathers spending time at the ballpark with their three sons.


Let it be known my pick of Tino was also a hunch (I liked the matchup of the sweet swingin' veteran lefty against an up-and-down rookie pitcher and the short porch down the right field line.)

Alas, no homers for Martinez and Finley, but they did combine to go 4-for-7, so I've got that going for me. Which is nice.