“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” according to Alfred Lord Tennyson; but for this baby boomer, I’m presently thinking about baseball. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, and how about Phil Rizzuto on the radio? “Holy cow,” he’d always say.
I remember it like only yesterday how Phil exclaimed it most anytime a Bronx Bomber hit a grand-slam home run or completed a triple play; and Mel Allen’s Ballantine Blast, advertising Ballantine Beer after every NY home run.
Yankee Stadium was fifteen miles away from where I grew up. As a kid, I knew the team’s batting lineup, their hitting, pitching, and home-run statistics; the individual players’ positions; and the names of all the members on the roster were committed to memory, available for my rapid recollection and recital.
Some of the greats had lived in my town back in the early 1960s, during the era of the M&M Boys, or the home-run-hitting juggernauts: Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris; one of whom had lived in my neighborhood.
The Yanks are no longer in the “House That Ruth Built,” now well-settled into their not-as-new-anymore stadium, opened for business at the start of the 2009 season, for which I had thought would be a jinx to them in that year’s Worlds Series matchup between New York and my adopted favorites, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Harking back to Game Five of that Fall Classic when the Phils had beaten the Yanks eight to six, making it three games to two with New York ahead, I figured my present-day hometown heroes had a chance, however slight it might have been. Only six major-league baseball teams in World Series history had battled back after a three-to-one deficit and won the championship, as had been the case facing Philadelphia in 2009.
What made it increasingly difficult for the Phillies to capture the title was the trip up the New Jersey Turnpike to the Bronx, where the Boys of October would be challenged in the brand-spanking, newly completed Yankee Stadium, with a total-capacity crowd of fifty-two thousand, three hundred and twenty-five screaming fanatics.
Alleged reports existed about a construction worker, who was a die-hard fan of the Boston Red Sox, burying a replica of a Red Sox jersey underneath the visitor’s dugout during the building of the New Yankee Stadium; he supposedly hoped to place a hex on the Bronx Bombers, like Boston had suffered with the “Curse of the Bambino”; but the attempt was exposed by co-workers.
The shirt was then exhumed by the original conspirator, coerced to keep digging until it was found, presumably much to his being strong-armed. His penitence didn’t seem to last very long; nevertheless, he later claimed to have buried a program from the 2004 American League Championship Series, when the Red Sox beat the Yanks and went on to trounce St. Louis, winning the World Series four games to none.
Thus, the purported “Bambino’s curse” was finally lifted. The location of this notorious program was never disclosed, so maybe there was a snowball’s chance in hell that Philadelphia could actually pull it off.
Unfortunately for baseball fans from the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia got blasted by the Yanks in Game Six of the contest, hanging up their bats for another season after suffering the agony of defeat by a score of seven to three.
One thing great about baseball, as it is for all competitive sports, there always is next year, or the year after that; and in some cases, as with Philadelphia, the year after that; which brings us to 2012. Maybe this will be their year. We’ll see.