Full Disclosure: I have dated two Yankees fans.
The most recent was last year. We met through a mutual friend at a party, and he asked for my phone number. Successful and handsome, I considered him out of my league, but when he called I agreed to meet him for coffee.
We met before class, which parlayed into skipping class and getting a little handsy in a public park while we stared at the stars listening to a Pavement concert across the street.
The next date, he took me to a nice dinner where he seemed incredibly nervous. Sweaty and uncomfortable, nose crinkled as though he smelled something offensive. I asked if he was alright, and he stammered through his answer, staring at his dinner plate.
“After I got your number, I googled you. I don’t know how to tell you this, but… I’m a Yankees fan.”
Dinner with the enemy.
I was shocked that my friend hadn’t warned me about his baseball allegiance. And his nervousness on this topic, made me uncomfortable.
I could date a Yankees fan, right? Was it a big deal?
Perhaps he was afraid I would have made a scene by throwing my glass of bourbon in his face and storming out, but I’d never waste alcohol like that. Plus, sometimes, I’m a lady.
We broke up later that week when he decided to get back with his ex-girlfriend, making him the second Yankees fan to treat me unkindly.
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I went into my first real relationship knowing he was a Yankees fan.
Growing up in the Midwest, New Yorkers seemed like they were a different species.
The way they talked, their ability to ride on trains for long periods of time without getting sick, and their affinity for floppy pizza and soggy bagels.
But, other than our upbringings, we had a lot in common. We liked the same music, had the same politics, and he was a baseball fan, renewing an interest in me that had waned during my difficult teenage years.
When I went to visit, we strolled through Manhattan arm-in-arm, giddy in love. We went into a Yankee’s apparel store, and he begged me to get a Jason Giambi T-shirt, because that’s apparently what would make me sexiest (his words, not mine).
I declined the T-shirt offer, as I was raised a National League fan. I had the Reds, then the Braves… and I’d been quietly watching the Red Sox for the past 3 years to see a couple of college players from my Georgia childhood: Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek.
After my visits to New York, I returned to the Midwest to start college in Indiana. The Yankees fan wanted to make sure my adjustment to dorm life went well, and even though he didn’t have much money while he struggled through law school, he sent me a Yankees Pennant and a Yankees teddy bear…which went straight to the back shelf of the closet.
A few weeks later, our relationship ended because he wasn’t faithful, which served as a new fuel for the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry: Cheaters to the left, broken hearts to the right.
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It took a Yankees fan breaking my heart to really renew my love of baseball.
The 2003 season was my first back in the baseball saddle after a hiatus for a few years. I was living in a National League wasteland and had been busy playing softball, chasing boys, and taking photographs.
Since 2000, I took every opportunity I could to watch the Boston Red Sox. There was something about that team and Fenway Park that just made me feel connected. But the 2003 team felt even more special, like they’d be the first team to win the World Series for Boston since 1918. They felt that magical—and so did Pedro Martinez.
I wish I had a story about Pedro from his younger days, but I didn’t know him as a Dodger. I never knew him as an Expo. But, with the Red Sox, his intensity and his temper that sometimes flared endeared him to me. His low ERA and Cy Young awards didn’t hurt our friendship, either.
Even when he was losing, there was a certain comfort with Martinez on the mound. There was just a sense that even when his performance was not his finest, that the team could somehow carry him by smashing home runs and generating run support.
I ordered two Red Sox shirts that season: Jason Varitek and Pedro Martinez, as the tandem just made sense.
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When the Red Sox retired Oakland in the ALDS, it was homecoming week. The student union was loud with activity, but it housed the only big screen TV I could find on campus, so I sat hunched in a chair intently watching baseball.
When the ALCS against the Yankees began, I did the same: wrapped in a blanket, my Pedro Martinez T-shirt, and a water bottle full of vodka. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the intensity of this series.
I pulled the Yankees teddy bear from the back of the closet, and defaced him with a permanent marker. Later in the series, I turned him into an Aaron Boone voodoo doll.
Game 3 was a highly anticipated matchup between Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens, whom I wished would have retired years ago.
The game reminded me what drew me to Pedro in the first place: though he was never the biggest, strongest, or best pitcher, he had confidence enough for an entire bullpen. And his bark was enough to get inside the minds of other teams: especially the New York Yankees.
When Karim Garcia was hit in the back by a Martinez fastball, I thought there would be trouble.
When Pedro gestured at Jorge Posada, I also thought there would be trouble.
When Garcia was forced out at second and slid hard into Todd Walker tackling him like a linebacker, it seemed only a matter of time before something big happened.
And sure enough, during Manny Ramirez’s next at bat, he was rattled by a high pitch from Clemens and charged the mound.
And of course, the benches cleared, as I sat in awe as grown men charged the field to settle their differences in a game of fisticuffs.
The brawl turned surreal when geriatric Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer ran towards Pedro Martinez and swung at him. Pedro grabbed Zimmer by his head, and rolled him to the ground like it was a watermelon toss… and I sat there speechless. While I don’t condone violence on the elderly, something seemed just about the whole situation.
With the inaugural rolling of the old man, it just seemed like 2003 would be the year the Red Sox finally ended the curse…and when the Red Sox forced a game 7, it seemed that good things would happen.
But Game 7 wasn’t meant to be. Pedro Martinez believed he had something left in the tank when Grady Little spoke to him on the mound, and honestly, I believed him.
And though he gave up 3 runs in the 8th inning to send the game to extra innings, it still seemed like there was a chance.
But once in a lifetime, Aaron Boone comes along and changes the history of things, leaving the team and fans reeling over a soul-crushing loss that had given everyone such optimism.
The 2003 season wasn’t meant to be, but it wasn’t long before the Red Sox exacted their revenge on the Yankees, beating them in the 2004 ALCS in dramatic fashion returning from a 3 game deficit.
As for Pedro? His last performance with the Red Sox would come in 2004: a 7-inning shut-out against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3, elevating him and a bunch of idiots to World Series Champions.
Quite a fitting end to his career in Boston, and his first and only World Series ring in his major league career.