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 24, 1996: Yankees host the Cleveland Indians.
A Wednesday night affair at the Stadium, one of those comic 10-8 games that featured balls bounding down both lines, walks galore, and more mosh-pit celebrations in Section 39 celebrating deep Yankees tags. Be that as it may, we could not combat what they had going on that night in Detroit, where the Twins were pounding the Tigers 24-11 (or I should say the Vikings were beating up the Lions, apparently) as we watched that score flip around on the scoreboard like the National Debt Clock and laughed all night.
I had come walking in with my headphones and a wee one named Christina immediately accosted me and wanted to listen. I’m guessing she was somewhere around five years old at the time. I had some 80’s thrash metal in there, a folk/pagan metal act named Skyclad. I put the phones on her ear and before I was able to lower the volume she pushed play and the music screeched and bleated. I expected her to shy away at best, to throw the headphones in horror at worst, but she ended up listening to that damn cassette tape until the batteries ran out a couple of innings and hours later. To this day, even without seeing this note on the scorecard I could never play that band again without thinking of that kid and that night she commandeered my Walkman.
It was a night for enterprising by creative fans. First some fans set up a “K Corner” off the loge for Scott Kamieniecki of all people. Always a fan favorite, Kammy ended up leaving the game in the sixth with a whopping two Ks tacked to the wall, so there wasn’t much return on that investment. Yet some more fans that wanted in on the action had made a sign for Paul O’Neill, each of them holding up a letter of his last name … on loose leaf paper! Are you kidding me? Yeah, that will stand out from the batter’s box. Someone in tribute to this lackluster effort drew a tiny circle on my scorecard and promptly held it aloft, stating that it was now a home run target of the magnitude of the mini O’Neill tribute out there.
There was this idiot out there nicknamed Bird, a lanky guy that would shuffle around and annoy any and all. He was walking around with Slim Jims, offering them out like anyone would want them. Here’s something weird on here (aside from creepy Bird) … a UFO sighting at 9:19 p.m.! No, it was not yet another home run given up by John Wetteland. It was a mysterious hovering light overhead that was zipping about in a seeming trajectory that no plane, blimp or copter could do in our thinking. Nothing else came out of this big UFO news aside from a note in the margin of my scorecard that night that we saw it. For the record, I was never privy to another “UFO sighting” out there, in all my 600 games or 6,000 beers.
In the fourth inning, Tino Martinez clouted his first home run in Yankee pinstripes, setting off another pile-on out there in the bleachers. I don’t know what was taking security so long to put a stop to this dangerous endeavor. I mentioned current Cowbell Man Milton was flying all over the place, and I also mentioned that Gang Bang Steve once again ended up on the very bottom each and every time.
This is funny. That relic Dennis Martinez started for the Tribe and got the old heave-ho in the fourth for arguing balls and strikes. He was not long for the ballgame regardless, as before he left the mound he was tagged for seven runs and probably was looking to go out with a bang. He ended up leaving, an ejected man, to a savage chorus of boos. It was always fun to show the old-timers respect!
Ah, I see this was the night I actually spoke to Yankees legend Roy White on the phone from my bleacher seat. As alluded to on here before, a bleacher elder had something going with him, which seemingly everyone knew about but me. Well, at one point this now somewhat-forgotten woman walked up to me out of the blue and told me Roy White was on the horn, and I could say hello. I exchanged a few pleasantries, none of which I remember beyond referring to him a few times as Mr. White and him never telling me I could just call him Roy.
A couple of random musings on here. A tune from A Flock of Seagulls was blared over the sound system, causing a “What is this, 1982?” snarl. Some guy was wearing such a large and clunky hat he was promptly dubbed “Pepperoni Pizza Box Head.” There’s a mention that pro wrestling’s “The Giant” had won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship a few days before (he competes to this day as “The Big Show”). There was apparently a “box seats-bleachers altercation,” but sadly no further details. We even engaged in a pleasant conversation on how odd it was that after all the hoopla we had seen in previous seasons to this regard, not one person had been seen by any of us running on the field at Yankee Stadium so far that year.
Devils fan Billy (famous for once calling the Twins’ Marty Cordova “someone who would be remembered in time as the best left fielder of his generation”) was talking about the circus for whatever reason and someone snapped, “Why don’t you go back there with the rest of the clowns?” And speaking of clowns Gang Bang noted on the card I spent most of the game making funny clown faces at Christina. Hey, I was always good with kids out there, and she did have my headphones after all. I mentioned at one point that Steve “threw a cup,” but explained it away as simply “subterfuge,” which leads me to believe all these years later he was doing it to cover up for someone else at the time to keep them out of trouble.
Out on the field (speaking of clowns again) the Yankees pulled off a wild 10-8 win. Kammy got the win with a modicum of help from Jeff Nelson and John Wetteland, though they were both bopped around a bit. The Yankees had 13 hits, including pairs from Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Ruben Sierra, Mariano Duncan and Derek Jeter. Tino drove in three on the night, and eight different Yankees scored a run. Your Yankees lineup was:
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. Mariano Duncan, 2B
8. Joe Girardi, C
9. Derek Jeter, SS
On the Indians’ side of the ledger they mustered 11 hits with Yankee killer Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome each scoring three runs. Thome also drove in four, including a three-run jack. Omar Vizquel, of all people, also had a home run. After Martinez saved himself by getting the toss we were lucky to see Jim Poole, Eric Plunk and Paul Assenmacher (whose last name Steve managed to morph into an obscene word on the pitching line) on the hill for the Tribesman. Your Indians lineup on the night, met with boos, went like this:
1. Kenny Lofton, CF
2. Julio Franco, 1B
3. Carlos Baerga, 2B
4. Albert Belle, LF
5. Eddie Murray, DH
6. Manny Ramirez, RF
7. Jim Thome, 3B
8. Sandy Alomar, C
9. Omar Vizquel, SS
Lets do a quick profile, and we’ll go with the aforementioned Mr. Dennis Martinez, affectionately referred to by many, but not me as “El Presidente.” Not like most of you need a reminding of him.
He was no Tippy Martinez, that was for sure. Anyway, he hung around from 1976-1998, pitching for Baltimore, Montreal, Cleveland (’94-96), Seattle and a wrap with the Braves. He won 245 games, so no joke there. He lost 193 games and had an impressive 3.70 ERA. He made 562 starts (692 games) and has a whopping 3,999 innings on his ledger. He walked 1,165 and whiffed 2,149, by far the highest totals of each in my dozens of profiles over time. Actually, I don’t think all of the pitcher totals I ever did added up to Martinez’s stats in that regard if you combined all of them together. I had always found him pedestrian, but he was a solid hand for a long time. He never won more than 16 games, but reached double digits in wins 15 times. He was one to remember. Born in 1955, this Nicaraguan was signed by the Orioles in 1973. His profile page on Baseball-Reference has 70, 949 views as of today, which seems sadly low. Cheers to Mr Martinez, may he enjoy his golden years, the jerk!
As for the game itself, only a ragtag group of 20,187 came out for this one, and the game dragged on for three hours and 37 minutes. I bet Michael Kay was mad. Hell, as games started after 7:30 at this time, I was probably mad too! Your umpires on this cool evening (61 degrees apparently) were Gary Cederstrom (HP), Mike Reilly (1B), Terry Craft (2B) and that moron Rich Garcia (3B). They were also booed.