The Texas Rangers, down one game to none to the Yankees, scoreless in 22 straight playoff innings, are still loose enough before tonight’s game to have designated a section of their dugout “El Barrio.” A strip of tape marks where Gonzalez, Rodriguez and the rest of the Rangers’ Latin players sit.
The Yankees, though, are the ones smiling. Willie Randolph laughs when some fans, who’ve been screeching at Derek Jeter for an autograph, startbeseeching Randolph instead. “Aw,” Randolph laughs, “you still want Jeter!”
Maybe Jeter’s got us all fooled, and he’s really a skirt-chasing, hard-drinking, multisyllabic cusser, but here’s another example of what goes into the making of a star who doesn’t lose his mind: Two hours before tonight’s game, Jeter’s parents are casually dressed and eating dinner atthe Unity Diner, one of those coffee shops with rotating pie displays, around the corner from the stadium. No limo, no attitude, just a couple ofproud parents getting ready for their kid’s game.
Inside the stadium, Rob Reiner’s on the autograph hunt, too, but at much lower volume, and only in the service of his two small sons. Players, nodoubt familiar with the Reiner ouvre from hours of hotel Spectravision viewing, voluntarily parade over to sign balls for Reiner’s kids. Joe Torre jogs over and jokes with the boys, then calls for Don Zimmer to join him.
After Jim Leyritz poses for a photo with him, Reiner says he thinks there’s more pressure on ballplayers before a big game than on a director waiting for his movie to open. “There’s more tension doing this,” he says – then reconsiders, perhaps remembering that he’s days away from the premiere of his new Bruce Willis-Michelle Pfeiffer vehicle. Reiner sucks in his breathand says, “Well, a movie opening, there’s a lot of money on the line.” Suddenly Reiner looks like he won’t be able to concentrate on the game.
Reiner grew up in the Bronx and is wearing a Yankees hat, but he admits to being a New York Giants fan in the fifties. “I was in all those who’s-better-Mantle-or-Mays arguments,” he says. “Arguing for Mays. There were subway series when I was a kid, and it was amazing, but it would be wild if it happens this year.”
About the only people in the city not actively rooting for the Mets to meet the Yankees are Yankees employees. “George is bad enough when we play the Mets in spring training,” says a Yankees executive. “God forbid we should play them in the World Series – and lose! I wouldn’t come to work the next day. Or maybe ever again.”
About 1 a.m. on Wednesday, after the Yankees’ win in game one, Steinbrenner was strolling the locker room, hair immaculately Grecian Forumla-ed and navy blazer tightly buttoned. He stopped in front of David Cone, who was pulling up his underwear. There were a few moments of silence. “Good start tonight!” Steinbrenner blurted. “Right,” Cone replied quietly. “Let’s keepit going!” Steinbrenner yelled before wandering off into the night, but it looked like he really wanted to order the team to practice right then.