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October 17, 1999: the Yankees vs. the Red Sox, Game Four


On the subway to Fenway (yes, I know, they call it the "T" here) two Red Sox fans wearing red face paint board a car and spot a guy sitting next to them wearing a Yankees pullover. One of the Sox guys, more excited than taunting, says to the other, "Hey, look, a Yankees fan!" The girlfriend of the Yankee fan, a little jumpy, tries to defuse things before they even get started. "It's just a joke," she says. The Red Sox guys aren't starting trouble. "That's okay," one says. "He's got a strange sense of humor," says the girlfriend. But the Yankee guy can't help being hostile. "It's no joke," he says of his Yankees wear. "It's the Red Sox who are a joke!" Now the girlfriend's really squirming, but the Red Sox guys go back to talking to one another.

The builders of Fenway Park, which opened in 1912, didn't envision Darryl Strawberry playing here. Not just because Strawberry is black. But because there weren't many home runs hit in baseball in those days, and certainly not many six-foot-six-inch guys with biceps rippling like the flanks of thoroughbreds standing in the batters box 325 feet from the Green Monster. Batting practice is pretty meaningless when it comes to winning and losing games, but man, watching Strawberry take BP in Fenway is an awesome show. He hits balls off the wall, of course; but he also hits them off the light tower behind the centerfield end of the wall, directly above the 379 foot sign, but much, much farther back. Strawberry hits line drives so hard into the stands behind that funny little rightfield corner that fans are ducking for cover. When they stand up again, they cheer Darryl's display.

--7:30 p.m., October 17, 1999

Alright, maybe sometimes batting practice IS meaningful. Strawberry's home run was curving foul, but it was hit so hard it didn't have time. The foulpole here in rightfield is the closest to home plate in the majors, just 301 feet, and Darryl used all those feet and no more. The ball clattered off the third section from the top of the pole; the crowd went silent as the ball approached, making the collision loud and clear, a metallic splash, like a chain slapped against a cement sidewalk.

Alright, so Strawberry's homer probably wasn't the big story tonight. The horrible, horrible calls by two umpires; Andy Pettitte pitchingmasterfully; the textbook Williams to Jeter to Girardi relay that cauterized an early Red Sox rally; the Yankees, as always, jumping on anysmall opportunity and taking advantage; the Boston fans throwing bottles, cans, and whatever else they could find onto the field until the umpires pulled the players into the safety of the dugout--yes, it's never dull around the Yankees. There were plenty of ugly moments, particularly when Paul O'Neill had to field a double near the rightfield wall and was pelted with debris. The umpires spotted one miscreant and pointed him out to cops, easily their best call of the night.

After the game, the bizarre scene in the tiny Yankees locker room included players detailing the abuse they took, and Jeff Nelson suggesting Yankee fans should retaliate if the Red Sox make it back to New York. That's helpful. There's fragments of violent incidents flying all around the room; apparently Nelson was sticking his head out of the Yankees dugout to see what was going on when a Red Sox security guard told him to "Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up." Nelson tried to attack the guard.

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