This is the 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.
Well, this was one for the books. Leave it to us to take an otherwise lazy Sunday afternoon and make a mess of it. So much stands out from this one game, it’s practically a defining slab of the era and it has become a legend in my litany. Starting with sipping cough syrup on the top deck of the parking garage simply because we ran out of beer to eating pieces of the giveaway calendar inside the bleachers just to say we did it to debuting a new tradition that thankfully was short-lived: the infamous Home Run Pile-On … this one will never be forgotten. Oh, and kids, don’t try this at home! Any of it!
The day began at one of the very first “Blue Lou Barbecues” – up on the parking garage roof across from the Stadium perpendicular to the jail – and it was a wild one, even by Bleacher Creature standards. Early on while the setting was still scant, people were taking Lou’s fancy golf clubs and balls out of his trunk and sending screaming moonshots in the direction of buildings along the way. Over the years many things were hurled out of those buildings in our direction, so consider this returning fire. Of course no one had the talent or sobriety to hit anything. At least I sure hope we didn’t.
We either drank too hard or bought too little as we all ran out of beer, and at a bad time too since it was too close to first pitch to make another run. (This was still the era when the drunkards would try to get in for all the action, as beer was still sold in the section and we could get our fix inside.) One vagrant guy that always seemed to be out there collecting our cans came over and started talking about things like cough syrup in times of need and oddly enough someone had some in their trunk. I know, don’t ask. Our shifty buddy took the first swig in front of our skeptical selves, passed the bottle on to Lou who glugged a bit and it went on to me and beyond. I think we all did two rounds of that and all was right in our world. Years later, I now see chugging cough syrup is practically a pandemic and it’s decried in the newspapers, and here was a cabal of Bleacher Creatures in 1996 setting quite the low bar in that regard. Anyhow, it was time to move this one inside.
People were getting thrown out all over the place. Ali, the legendary cowbell man, was trying to keep the peace, ringing his bell, raising his arms to invite dancing and song, and pleading to security to get a handle on things. Even though he was doing us all a favor by trying to save us from ourselves we chided him for it. It got so bad with people being thrown out that at one point another fan walked up to me and said, “What are you still doing here? I thought you got thrown out!” It was news to me, but anything was possible. I actually went down to security on the rail to check if this was true and was met with a, “Nah, you’re good for now.”
We had all been handed 1996 Yankees giveaway calendars at the gate and somehow decided it would be a good idea if each of us ripped off some pieces of the players housed inside and ate them. In retrospect, I blame the cough syrup for this. Yes, this was a perfect example of mob mentality spun out of control. Some of us folded the pieces into square bites while some ripped, crumpled and chewed, and others just made a big ball in one shot, but the players were (sigh) ate in their entirety. Here’s a roster of who partook and which player (or players in Big Lou’s case) they ate, fresh off the pages of this scorecard from 16 years ago.
Sheriff Tom – Tony Fernandez
Gang Bang Steve – Bob Wickman
Tom J (I don’t know who this is) – Tino Martinez
Blue Lou – Dwight Gooden and Joe Girardi. What a slob.
So even after all of this I had a fight with a pack of mustard and lost. I’m wondering now if I was using mustard to add spice to the paper I was eating. Otherwise why I was opening mustard on my own is beyond me. I was notorious for never eating anything out there one would put mustard on in fear of losing my omnipotent beer buzz. This one packet blasted back at me and I was marked. I looked like a Keith Haring poster. For the rest of the day people – most of them strangers – were literally lining up to hand me mustard packs to watch me open them, in the hopes I would get pasted with yet another yellow hue. Being drunk and increasingly belligerent, I was all about proving them wrong and showing them that, yes, I could indeed open a mustard pack. Even that was a disaster in itself, as once they were opened something needed to be done with them, and I decided simply dropping them on the ground would suffice. Of course your next step was someone actually taking a next step, right on top of them, shooting mustard about like shrapnel and getting it all over everyone.
“Sit down, you alcoholic!” someone yelled at me at some point while I was standing up, either eating mustard packets or eating a piece of the giveaway calendar. Oh, my Mom would have been so proud if she could have seen me then.
There was an old man sitting with us who was not our own Old Man Jimmy, spinning yarns about the old Yankee Stadium. Because he was very old and particularly wistful we decided he was full of crap. “Old man telling lies” was promptly scrawled on the scorecard.
In one of the more comedic faux celebrity sightings we have had out there over the years, a dead ringer for Burt Reynolds walked up the stairs to a serenade of hoots and hollers. Someone frankly asked him if he “took a Cannonball Run to the bathroom.” He gave a sheepish wave in response, made his way to his seat and plopped right down next to his date – a dead ringer for Loni Anderson.
Yet even more maniacal fun took hold after a seemingly innocuous Mariano Duncan home run in the Yankees’ half of the sixth, which made the score 8-2 in favor of the good guys. Two of the guys dancing a celebratory jig on the seats took a tumble and rather than help them up, someone decided to pile on instead. Then another daredevil shot through the air, crashing on the cluster, and then it was on! It’s noted here that our friend Gang Bang Steve ended up on the very bottom with an otherwise unidentified “John.” I ended up losing my Cousin Brewski pin in the ensuing melee. (More on legendary beer-slinger and bleacher crooner Cousin Brewski and his highly prized pins in time.)
After this wreck was complete everyone hopped up all grin, gusto and guffaw, which turned to winces and groans when no one was looking. Apparently some of us thought this was so much fun we reenacted the whole scene when Gerald Williams hit a totally meaningless home run in the Yankee eighth to make it 12-2. I friggin’ hated this tradition and I’m grateful that security tired of it almost immediately and put a kibosh on it. I mean, think about this: a bunch of drunken goofs taking running starts, flying through the air and crashing on a pile of others on and in between bleacher benches in uncontrollable daredevil fashion. Back then we averaged around 160 pounds and not today’s 260 (or is it 360?), but this still hurt like hell. I don’t miss it, no way and no how!
To cap the scorecard this time around I see there was an early nod to old friend Gail By The Rail (the infamous candy-thrower) along with random comments such as “Marge Schott should be Schott,” the ever popular “show your ti-s” and a note that a girl in a fur wrap was gleefully dubbed “animal killer.”
The Yankees pasted the Rangers on this day to the tune of 12-3. Andy Pettitte was the beneficiary of the Yankee attack with Kevin Gross getting smacked around on the hill for Texas. By the time he left in the second, to laughter, it was 5-1 New York. For the Yankees, Bernie, Tino and O’Neill all had a pair of hits, while Mariano Duncan cracked out three, including the jack that precipitated the original pile-on, and he drove in three on this day (bless the man). Gerald Williams also homered, drove in three and scored three times. Your Yankees lineup was interesting, and looked like this:
1. Bernie Williams, CF
2. Tino Martinez, 1B
3. Paul O’Neill, RF
4. Ruben Sierra, DH
5. Jim Leyritz, C
6. Mariano Duncan, 2B
7. Andy Fox, 3B
8. Gerald Williams, LF
9. Derek Jeter, SS
As for Texas, they managed 10 hits of their own, with fun foe Rusty Greer having three, including a homer. Their lineup shaped up like this:
1. Lou Frazier, CF
2. Ivan Rodriguez, C
3. Will Clark, 1B
4. Mickey Tettleton, DH
5. Craig Worthington, 3B
6. Rusty Greer, LF
7. Mark McLemore, 2B
8. Damon Buford, RF
9. Kevin Elster, SS (LOL)
Let’s wrap with a profile, and Damon (son of Don) Buford it is.
The guy drifted onto the scene in 1993 and wore many hats, making stops with the Orioles, Mutts, Rangers, Red Sox and Cubs. He usually played around 60-100 games a year, though the Cubs saw to it to give him 150 of the 699 career games he played over eight years in one campaign (2000). He rewarded them with a .251 average and a piddling 15 home runs for that blind faith. For his career, he batted a sickly .242 in 1,853 at-bats, with 54 home runs and 218 RBIs. He had some speed, swiping 56 bags, but was also nailed 35 times. He struck out 430 times – way too high a percentage – and took 173 free passes. He played all the outfield positions and when it was wrapping up for him he made cameos at both second and third. 1996 was actually his “high-water mark” as he batted .282 in 90 games (though he only had 145 at-bats) and we got to see him go 1-for-3 on this nice April day. Born in 1970, he was a 10th round draft pick in the 1990 draft by way of USC. This second-generation star’s Baseball-Reference page has exactly 13,000 views as I’m banging this out, which seems low to me. By no means was he was an All-Star, but I’m thrilled to say I got to see this somewhat fleet-of-foot, world-class athlete ply his trade for my enjoyment.
There were only 20,181 on hand (and a good portion of those were drunk and ended up being tossed out of the bleachers as the day went on) and the game was played in an even three hours time. Your umpires on this day were the late and lamented Durwood Merrill (HP), Gary Cederstrom (1B), Dale Scott (2B) and Rocky Roe (3B).
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this installment, and kids, only drink cough medicine if you have a cough!