To THE Stadium and Back
I'm planning on putting up a follow-up post regarding our second day in Cooperstown, complete with photos and a few personal stories. However, for purposes of timeliness, I want to skip ahead to Wednesday night when Joe and I attended our first game at Yankee Stadium or THE Stadium as Yankee fans like to call it.
Those of us from Southern California call our ballparks Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium. But, then again, we also succumb to easterners when it comes to describing the time. We say "Pacific Time" when conversing with folks outside our time zone whereas people on the so-called right side of the country would never add "Eastern Time" in describing when something was going to take place. Oh well, I'll be sure to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist to talk about my inferiority complex when I get back home.
In the meantime, Joe and I did some Cliff Hangin' last night on our way to the game. We caught the 4 Train from Grand Central (or the Iron Horse as Alex Belth told me insiders call it) to Yankee Stadium. After getting a bite to eat in the food concourse, we hopped onto the subway at about 3:45 p.m. (Eastern Time). Our car was crowded so we found ourselves standing in the middle, holding onto the rails for safety. After we got situated, Joe whispers to me, "I'm 95% certain that's Cliff Lee standing next to you" (notice the arm of my brown jacket in the foreground). I look up and, sure enough, it looks just like the Cleveland lefthander. I turned back to Joe and remarked, "I think you're right." He then says, "I'm 99.9% certain." While I'm not into star gazing per se, you have to admit that it's an incredible coincidence that a player from the opposing team – much less the starting pitcher THAT night – would be riding the subway to the park *and* at the same time as Joe and me *and* standing next to us for the entire trip.
In any event, while making eye contact with Lee, I make a pitching motion with my left hand as if I were throwing a breaking ball. He gives me a quizzical look so I mouth "Cliff?" He nods his head. Conscientious that I'm wearing a NY hat for the first time in my life, I point to it and tell him that I'm from Long Beach, California and not really a Yankees fan. Lee smiled and shook his head. I explained that Joe and I were on a father-son baseball trip and had already been to Fenway Park the previous weekend and were going to our first Yankees game that night, and to Shea Stadium on Friday night.
There wasn't a single person other than Joe or me who had any inclination that Cliff Lee was standing on the subway, holding onto the rail tightly with his left arm. The 29-year-old southpaw stands about an inch shorter than me (although he looked a tad shorter than that) but with more facial hair and was wearing a beige LaCoste shirt with a green alligator on it, designer jeans, comfortable shoes, and a silver Rolex on his right hand – the only real Rolex on the entire subway. In fact, I'm quite sure I could have bought two or three along the way for much less than what Lee paid for his watch (or it it a time piece?).
Having garnered Lee's full attention at this point, I told him that ESPN was calling that evening's game "the pitching matchup of the season." Going into the game, Lee was 5-0 and Chien-Ming Wang was 6-0. Cliff responded modestly, "It's still early." I nodded and said, "Yeah, but it must feel good." Lee agreed, "It does." I winked as if to say, "Good job," and he smiled back as if to say, "Thanks."
I left it at that and we rode in the rest of the way, exiting at 161st Street. Lee hurried off the subway and departed into a sea of commuters and early-arriving fans. Joe and I walked down the stairs and onto the street and there they were: the new Yankee Stadium directly in front of us and the old Yankee Stadium across the street and slightly to the left. We took several photos before going to Gate 2 and getting in line to tour Monument Park inside the stadium prior to the game. (I will put up photos as time permits later today or tomorrow.)
I don't need to tell Yankee fans how the game turned out. Lee threw seven scoreless innings and picked up his sixth victory without a loss while lowering his ERA to 0.81. Did I mention that Lee has 39 strikeouts while only allowing 2 walks? I'm sure these same fans (Alex included) wish I had tripped Lee on his way out the subway. Heck, ballplayer or no ballplayer, I wouldn't do that to someone I was just hangin' with.
(As an aside, how did the Indians do in that trade where they sent Bartolo Colon to the Expos for Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillips? Although Lee hasn't performed to expectations and Cleveland never capitalized on Phillips' late-blooming career, Sizemore has been one of the best center fielders in baseball the past several years and Lee is pitching as well as – or better than – anyone in baseball this season.)