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October 18, 1999: the Yankees vs. the Red Sox, Game Five

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After a night's sleep -- and without any advice, he swears, from GeorgeSteinbrenner or anyone else -- Jeff Nelson is sounding much more temperate about yesterday's battles with Red Sox fans and security. Sort of. Last night Nelson suggested the Red Sox might want to lose tonight so they wouldn't have to face what Yankees fans would do to them Wednesday night. "Let's wrap it up tonight and forget about this whole thing until next year," the reliever says. "I don't want to see any retaliation at Yankee Stadium. It's not like I'm egging anyone on. I mean, come on, they're New Yorkers."

Best line regarding last night's nonsense: Jimy Williams, the Red Sox manager, when asked about George Steinbrenner's saying Williams had incitedthe idiot fans. Says Williams, "When Georgie Porgie speaks, I don't listen."

Red Sox security people are so skittish tonight that they rush over and quiet a handful of fans who yell, from about 500 yards away, at the Yankees during batting practice tonight. The cops aren't quite so touchy; one uniformed state policeman is more interested in cadging an autographed photo from Derek Jeter.

Perhaps fans will be too bundled up to throw anything tonight. It is cold. Fifty-two degrees on the thermometer at 6:30 p.m, but with a stiff wind slapping the centerfield flag (it's a pitcher's wind, blowing in), and moist, frigid air. Maybe it's mind over matter, some sort ofself-psychology ploy, but Orlando Hernandez, the Yankees' starting pitcher tonight, is sitting in the dugout wearing shorts and shower sandals, watching the Red Sox take batting practice. El Duque, like Pedro Martinez, has a gift for knowing what pitch to throw, and his feel for theball is as important as his intelligence. It's going to be difficult keeping his fingers warm on the mound.

There's been lots of talk in Boston today about curses and umpires favoring the Yankees. Of course, Boston is in the habit of feeling downtrodden; inside the great old tin scoreboard, inside the Green Monster, there's chalk graffiti reading WHY US? It's easier to believe in omens and malevolence than talk about the four physical errors the Red Sox made last night, and the awful, way-past-his-prime pitching of Rod Beck. Don Zimmer, the Yankees' coaching oracle, suffered many mystical defeats when he wasmanaging the Red Sox in the late seventies. Does Zimmer believe that in baseball, unlike life, the breaks even out in the long run? "People inBoston have thought that for 100 years," he says. Zimmer's off by a few digits -- it was 1918 when the Sox last won a World Series -- but he's right about Boston fans still holding out for a reckoning.

--7:45 p.m., October 17, 1999


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