Shell Shocked: Growing up a winner
Ladies, this column is for the guys so please do something else unless you’re from the Bronx and were Yankee fans when you were growing up.
Guys, how many of you out there are from the Bronx and are lifelong Yankee fans? I suspect very few of you in Sanibel fit this description. I would guess that most of you are die-hard Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds or Cleveland Indians fans. There aren’t too many Bronxites in Sanibel.
As a member of a minority group-Sanibel residents born and raised in the Bronx I was a privileged sports fan growing up. I was privileged because when I was growing up the New York Yankees seemed to win the World Series every year. In fact, during one stretch the Yankees won five World Series in a row.
As a kid I thought that this was the norm being a Yankee fan and winning every year. It wasn’t until I grew up that I began to realize how many non-New Yorkers hated the Yankees and begrudged them for winning so often. The Yankees have won twenty-seven World Series and the nearest rival to the Yankees dynastic habits are the St. Louis Cardinals who have won eleven World Series.
Being a Yankee fan as a kid was a kind of entitlement. My wife is Swedish and hasn’t a clue about what it’s like to be a Yankee fan. She doesn’t understand baseball and as much as I try to explain what such terms as “seventh-inning stretch,” “balk,” “foul ball” and “grand slam” mean she still can’t comprehend them.
She explains that no one played baseball in Hudyksval, the little fishing village she grew up in on the Baltic coast in northern Sweden. When she came to the U.S. as a young woman she had never heard of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth. What a deprived childhood she had I used to think.
Even today I’m spoiled. I expect the Yankees to win every year. That’s the legacy and heritage I grew up with. I used to go to Yankee Stadium as a kid and literally worshiped all the Yankee players. As the years passed I watched Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle hit long home runs and make spectacular plays on the field.
One of my special memories was being at a game between the Boston Red Sox, a perennial nemesis, and the Yanks. Ally Reynolds, a star Yankee pitcher, was pitching a no-hitter and there were two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Only Ted Williams, the great Boston slugger, stood between Reynolds and a no-hitter.
Reynolds got Williams to hit a foul pop up behind the plate and Yankee catcher Yogi Berra settled under it and dropped the ball. The crowd which was ready to shout for joy was stunned into silence. Yogi must have gotten nervous and lost his concentration. Well, they went at it again. Reynolds tried once again to get Williams out and preserve a no-hitter.
And for a second time Reynolds got Williams to hit a high pop up behind home plate. Berra circled under it and this time made the catch. What a historic day that was for a little kid like me learning about Yankee folklore at a young age.
I must say that being a born again Yankee fan from the time I entered kindergarten helped me to try to raise the bar in my own life. The Yankees were used to being the best and I tried to emulate that philosophy. While I never won twenty-seven World Series I like to think I’ve made something of my life. Thank you, Yankees.