Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Yankee Stadium Remembrances, Part 2: Another Bad Night for Leary

"Another Bad Night for Leary," screamed the headline from the always bombastic New York Post as it recapped the Twins-Yankees game on July 6, 1992. And even though it was talking about Tim Leary, this article wasn't about mind-altering drugs. The article lamented the performance of the Yankee pitcher with the same name, who "dragged his teammates down in a 10-5 defeat."

This loss came three starts after Leary was accused of scuffing balls with sandpaper in Baltimore. "Leary is scheduled to meet AL President Bobby Brown sometime this week to discuss the incident," the article went on, "Perhaps, a stop at a hardware store on the way home is in order."

The 1992 Yankees weren't much to write home about, finishing fifth in the seven-team AL East, behind the still-American-League Milwaukee Brewers, among others (Toronto won the division and the World Series that year, beating Atlanta 4 games to 2).

And this particular game wasn't much to write home about, either. Leary lasted 2.2 innings and gave up six runs, all earned. The Yankees led 5-4 after two frames, but a four-run third put the Twins ahead for good. Danny Tartabull had a home run, and Carl Willis picked up the win.

But what did make the game interesting, at least for me, was that it was the first stop in a 11-stadium tour that I took with a friend of mine whom you might know as "Eric Karros." We both spent part of our first summer out of undergrad touring the east coast's ballparks, and Yankee Stadium was a memorable first stop in our trip.

We spent the day visiting the Statue of Liberty, climbing all the way up into the crown (the torch was off-limits), before heading up into the Bronx for the game. I seem to recall it being pretty humid that night. And besides that, I have to depend on my old-school photo albums for memories, as there was nothing else really remarkable that stood out (I have since seen about a half-dozen games at Yankee Stadium, with this trip being my first visit).

If I had any skill with positioning originals on the glass of a scanner, you would be able to tell that I had upper deck seats in row F, seat 14, for the 41st home game of the year. Game time was 7.30pm and we were there early. The shot on the bottom is from inside the dashboard of our rental car as we skedaddled into New York; I can't recall where we parked, but I do recall we beat the life out of that poor car over the next three weeks, traversing states in a circuitous path dictated by the baseball schedule.

I was decently educated in Yankee lore and had the requisite degree of reverence for the franchise, but the truth of the matter is that the stadium in 1992 reflected the team's on-field state of disrepair. Bernie Williams and Don Mattingly may have graced the cover of the Yankees' pocket schedule, but fewer than 18,000 fans cared about showing up on that July evening. The centerfield billboard advertisements touted Getty gasoline, 7-Eleven's Big Bites, and Hitachi Ultravision. What's worse, the LED scoreboard adjacent to the Marlboro Man ad had a "picture" of a smiling Tim Leary before the game that looked like it came from a Nintendo Game Boy game, with caricature features that looked nothing like a human being let alone what I recollect of Leary himself.

I don't remember much of the game, I confess. But if visiting Yankee had any magical power to augur a fun appreciation for baseball over the rest of my trip, then it definitely worked its magic on us. EK and I had a great time for the next three months or so exploring the east coast via roads between ballparks. We zipped up to New Haven CT early the next day, stopping back by New York later on in the trip, before eventually returning to the real world and, in my case, starting a 9-to-5 job just like the rest of my college grad peers.

I do have one more story about visiting Yankee Stadium (which is better than this one, but sans pictures), but I'll save it for tomorrow.


karina said...

Great story, Steve. You've left a smile on my face just before i have to leave home to start the day!

Eric Karros said...

I have only vague memories of the Yankee portion of that trip. Game-wise, my best memory is probably in Cleveland, where the two of us comprised about 40% of the crowd at their old stadium. And in Detroit (I think?) where they played the Royals and Brian McRae jumped/fell clear over the centerfield wall trying to catch a HR.