“Mr Guidry, will you sign my baseball?” I asked. “Yes,” Ron Guidry said, “just throw it over the fence.” The Yankees pitcher was about to get in his car in the fenced lot at the Fort Lauderdale stadium after a spring training practice for catchers and pitchers in mid February, 1979. As I watched him sign, while holding onto the fence a State Trooper with one of those big green calvary style hats asked me to take my foot off the flowerbed dirt that bordered the lot.When I didn’t move, in my nervous elation about my autograph, the trooper said, “Son, are you deaf?” Guidry threw the ball over the fence to me and I walked away, ignoring the trooper. I just wanted my autograph. And a week ago Friday, at Yankee Stadium(being from New Jersey, some of my closest friends are Yankee fans, so I respectfully join them when invited and root for the opposing team, especially if the ticket’s free) while I waited for my friend to come out of the bathroom, I wandered close to the field level seats, an hour before game time, and was asked to step away from the area in back of those seats. Some things never change I thought. I just wanted to look at the left field grass. “You can’t stand here” an usher said, after I asked him about finding good beer at the stadium. Just like the time at Spring Training when I stood on the walkway overlooking the bullpen, watching Andy Petite warm up. “Keep moving” a guy with a badge said. Every ballpark has their rules, but give me, please, a break. When my step-father(the Yankee fan on that occasion) and I wanted to walk down the aisle closer to the field there in Tampa, two hours two hours!, before the game the usher told us only ticket holders for that section were allowed. I know the Yankees have a lot of fans, but it’s not as though they have to pull their tasers out every night because of some fan running on the field. They have learned to manage the crowds, unlike the riot-like storming that happened in 76 and 77, which was scary for all of the players. But, still, I wonder if this rule-bound, impersonal, military like treatment of fans is a result of arrogance at the top. It’s certainly not coming from the players, who finally are looking like they are having fun with Swisher and Burnett’s pie in the face celebrations. When I think back to Steinbrenner asking Thurman Munson to shave, I may have my answer. Somewhere up in the front offices is a holier than thou attitude. Yankee fans can hope, though, that Girardi and gang will influence the upper ranks, but I doubt it. Long live one of the hardest working guys who ever played the game, and once a key member of the most excruciating and beautiful rivalries in sports, also shown in the last entry taking the brunt of Fisk’s swings.
PS. Let’s hope Clay can do what Beckett was supposed to do last night. I can’t bear to even talk about it.