Scorecard Memory: Cowbell Fight and Mystery Outs All Over

This is a recurring series of recollections, where I will be marching though my old scorecards from my halcyon days in good old Section 39 of the Yankee Stadium bleachers. You’re invited to join me. Please bring beer.

April 25, 1996: Yankees host the Cleveland Indians

Ah, a Thursday night at the Stadium, and I was right back at it. Weekday or not, I was drinking again, as judged by the squiggles and slashes that make up this scorecard. Fun fact: the Yankees and Baltimore were fighting it out for the division and Boston was languishing in the rear with a disgusting 6-16 record. They should have been ashamed. The more things change…

Not much here, and I promise not to simply try to get blood out of a stone. This should be a rather rapid effort and you should be in and out of here quickly!

I see we mentioned “Jerkin’ Joe Girardi-o” on this card. This was probably not simply tossed to the field from our perch, it may even be a nod to our good friend Bad Mouth Larry, who in the past had asked me to look for random Girardi mentions on the card, as that is what we were calling Larry in early days. If you have or had been around to see this guy morph from “Joe Girardi” to BAD MOUTH LARRY you have had a hell of a ride.  Seeing that Joe Girardi was not in the Yankees lineup that night, I can probably safely say “Hi, Larry!”

At 7:23 p.m. they had still not read the lineups for the 7:35 start, which caused someone to crack that they were probably trying to find one of the ticket guys to do the job (the ticket guys were notorious for opening the windows for daily game sales a few minutes late for no particular reason). Talk turned to fare from around the league, particularly on how the Twins had battered Tiger pitching for 35 runs in the last two days. Stuff like that was always a cause for chuckle. I was happy to rat out our bleacher friend Crazy Dave, who had been spotted on the A train in a Pittsburgh Pirates cap, which has yet to be explained, these 16 years later. Queen Bee Tina used this to call out our friend Jeff, who she swore she saw once in Central Park in a Mets jacket! “He saw me coming and he ran away!” she snarled, adding that she tried in vain to chase him down.

Brian Setzer, best known for fronting the Stray Cats, sang the National Anthem or a reasonable facsimile of such. Not everyone saw it that way as someone howled, “Arrest that man for murder! He just killed the crowd!” Yet another fan cracked, “He’s a stray cat … he licks his own balls!” After Setzer slinked off the field to polite applause and a smattering of boos an “Italian skier” came out to throw the first pitch. To commemorate this fact I wrote on the card, “Some Italian skier throws out the first pitch, then eats pasta.” And yes, I happen to be half-Italian and I’ve had my share.

Ah, a cowbell battle raged on this night. A random fan bought his own cowbell, and it got him into fisticuff action. As Gang Bang Steve described it on the scorecard, “First he got the point … then he got the fist.” We’ve all been there. Someone had accosted him for encroaching on the legendary cowbell man Ali Ramirez’s turf, an argument ensued, and a finger was pointed, followed by the punch. Both combatants were tossed for their troubles and for our entertainment. For the record Ali rang his first cowbell serenade at 7:35 p.m. and sadly, less than a month later, he would no longer be with us.

I see here I dropped a beer, which was known as the “Five Dollar Fumble” back then. That always sucked, but hey, it sucks more in 2012 with prices of beer being what they are.

After a spirited “Mets suck!” chant someone snidely asked, “What do they suck?” and Tina snapped, “They suck everything!” Ah, she has never changed. One funny line I see on here was directed at someone running (lets assume it was a player on the field as there was not much running room out there in Section 39).  “Run, you lanky ass!” someone howled. LOL at “lanky.”

Mystery outs all over this thing. For the unencumbered we would scroll “MO” for any play that whoever was scoring at the time failed to witness. Alarmingly, this happened way to often. I’m quite embarrassed at my behavior seeing them all over this card. One MO in the first, one in the second, two in the third (along with a mystery “HIT”), two more in the fourth, another mystery HIT in the fifth, two more MOs in the sixth, another two in the seventh and the entire ninth was a mystery. I guess we gave up by then. It wasn’t just me, Gang Bang takes some of the blame for this as we were passing the card back and forth like a peace pipe.

I see I was missing outs here and there, but still had time to scroll down the classic line we’d howl after a particularly impressive pop-up in the infield: ”Hey, if you were at the carnival you would have won a stuffed animal with that!” Another fun “pop-up” joke was, “That would have been a home run in a silo!”

I guess the Knicks had a big game or something on that night as “Knicks by 19” is written on here in a messy scrawl. The only other things of note on here are a “Hit him in the head!” command written next to Hall of Famer Eddie Murray’s name and a “You f-cking punk!” written next to that of Manny Ramirez. It’s also been noted for history that some guy named Dave (who may or may not have been my brother) purchased cotton candy.

The Yankees dropped this one to the Tribe 4-3 with Andy Pettitte taking his first loss on the young season, getting spanked for 11 hits in seven-plus innings of work before Bob Wickman and Steve Howe came in to shut it down. Howe got his ERA down to 7.36 with his sterling work. Old friend JERK (Jack) McDowell started for the Indians. He kept his finger to himself and though the Indians won thankfully he didn’t get the win. That accolade went to Jim Poole. We also saw Julian Tavarez and that dope Jose Mesa toe the slab for Cleveland. Martinez had the sole Yankees homer, and he and Jim Leyritz each had a pair of the Yankees hits. Here is your full Yankee lineup on that eve.

1. Wade Boggs, 3B
2. Bernie Williams, CF
3. Paul O’Neill, RF
4. Ruben Sierra, DH
5. Tino Martinez, 1B
6. Tim Raines, LF
7. Jim Leyritz, C
8. Andy Fox, 2B
9. Derek Jeter, SS

For the Indians, Julio Franco notched three hits, and Eddie Murray, Sandy Alomar and Omar Vizquel each had a pair. Albert “Joey” Belle homered, as he always did against the Yankees. It seems he also made an error, which I’m sure went over great with the crowd. Your Indians lineup shaped up like this:

1. Kenny Lofton, CF
2.  Julio Franco, DH
3. Carlos Baerga, 2B
4. Albert Belle, LF
5. Eddie Murray, 1B
6. Manny Ramirez, RF
7. Sandy Alomar, C
8. Scott Leius, 3B
9. Omar Vizquel, SS

For a profile lets go with Yonkers, N.Y. native Scott Leius, who went 0-for-4 in this game with a whiff.

Leius haunted the league from 1990-99, wearing the colors of the Twins, Indians (only 27 games, all in ‘96) and Royals. A nifty .244 lifetime batting average, with a mere 28 home runs and 172 RBIs in 557 games of action. He stole one more base than he was caught stealing, at a 16-15 mark. Sketchy. He walked 161 times and struck out 236, nothing askew there. He played all over the place, but mostly was ensconced at short and third. He did log some outfield action (which made it easier to yell at him from bleacher seats) and a few stops at first base. He was born in 1965 and was a 13th-round pick the very month I graduated from high school (I will let you guys look that up) by the Twins out of Concordia College, which actually sports four MLB alumni. His Baseball-Reference page has a low 8,839 views as of today, which to me seems limited to friends, family and me. That said, I’m quite happy I got to see this man ply his trade!

As for the game, it was played in front of the scant crowd of 18,580 (which should show some of us Yankee fans that are laughing at Baltimore fans coming out of the woodwork that this was nothing new around baseball) and went off in three hours and seven minutes. Your umpires on the night were Mike Reilly (HP), Terry Craft (1B), Rich Garcia (2B) and Gary Cederstrom (3B). They were booed.