The 1993 baseball season was unique for many different reasons. It was the final season before the 1994 players strike. It was also the last season of two divisional play, which saw the San Francisco Giants win 103 games and miss the postseason. But as a Mets fan, it was a season of monumental failure. The highlights of that year were Vince Coleman throwing firecrackers at a little girl, Bret Saberhagen spraying bleach at reporters, and Anthony Young’s record breaking 27 consecutive losses. I don’t remember how many Mets games my father brought us to that season (we would usually go to around 6 per year). But I do recall that by Labor Day weekend, we were beyond disgusted with the way our beloved Amazins were playing.
It was still to our surprise when my father told us that he would be taking us to the Yankee game for a Saturday matinee. “Why?” one of us asked. Though we were both huge baseball fans and loved going to games, we grew up in the 1980s, when New York was a Mets town. The Yankees may have played in the same town, but that was the American League. My extent of knowledge of the AL were the baseball cards I collected and verbal accounts of who the good players were based on my neighbor Billy, a Yankee fan. This was before the internet, MLB Network, fantasy baseball (the way we know it today anyway), interleague play, and before my love for baseball reached the insane levels it climbed to when I hit my 20s.
Today, you wouldn’t have to twist my arm at all to go to any game, especially in a stadium I haven’t been to yet. But as a 13 year old with 8th grade a few days away, I wasn’t entirely sure that this was how I wanted to spend my last Saturday of the summer. Something about going to the Bronx just felt so foreign, so wrong, so gross.
But, when you are a kid, you do what Dad says (for the most part anyway). So we made the unfamiliar drive to the Bronx, parked in an unfamiliar parking garage, and walked up to that unfamiliar monolith in what I was already sure was the most dangerous neighborhood on Earth. (Sidebar: While NYC in 1993 may have had a slightly higher crime rate than it currently does, my assumptions were based on what I had heard. At current, there are probably few safer places in the 5 boros than the area surrounding The House That George Built.). I didn’t know much about what to expect about our trip to Yankee Stadium that overcast Saturday afternoon. But one thing was for certain: WE WERE ROOTING FOR CLEVELAND.
Somewhere around this time, my father decided to tell us that the last time he was in the post-renovation Yankee Stadium was 16 years prior. That meant very little to Mark and I, but my dad explained that it was for a rather historic October ballgame in 1977. My dad grew up a NY Giants fan and had the misfortune of seeing the Yankees win the pennant or World Series 14 of his first 16 years on the planet. So it was odd to me that he would’ve attended a game between the Yankees and Dodgers, the two franchises he grew up despising. But he fessed up that he and a friend had big money bet on that Bronx Zoo squad, and therefore heard cash register “ca-ching” noises in his head with each blast off of Reggie’s bat. We had heard of that game, but as a 13 year old my understanding for the history of baseball was not nearly what it would be later in life. I knew enough to know that being at a World Series game must’ve been pretty fun, especially if he was winning hundreds of dollars in the process.
But back to the present (well, past). Neither the 1993 Yankees or the 1993 Cleveland Indians would be of any historical significance. Though the Indians had some up and coming star players: a third baseman by the name of Jim Thome, catcher Sandy Alomar, Jr., second baseman Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, and a wiry Washington Heights product named Manny Ramirez. The 1993 Yankees were typical of their early 90s template: stars imported from other teams such as Boggs, Nokes, and Tartabull. There was Paul O’Niell and young Bernie Williams, who would contribute a few years later to their championship years. There was Don Mattingly, a shell of his former self due to back injuries. By all accounts this was about as meaningless game as you could attend.
The one unique thing about the game was that the starting pitcher had one hand. Now this was a story in the late 80s, when Jim Abbott was a newcomer with the then California Angels. But by now everyone knew that Jim Abbott was born without a right hand, and how he transferred his glove for fielding, and so on. Now he was nothing more than a middle of the rotation starter. Abbott had faced these same Indians in his previous start and got battered around. So we sat in our seats and waited for the Yankees to hopefully lose.
In the 3rd inning, the Yankees grabbed a 3-0 lead. My brother and I were at this point probably more concerned with getting Dad to buy more food than we were about anything happening on the field. And then around the 5th, a distinct buzz began amongst the fans. My dad, aware of the superstition, gestured to the scoreboard to make us aware that there were no hits allowed by Abbott through 5 innings. All of a sudden, this game that meant nothing took on monumental interest. People were standing up for each out. You couldn’t wait for the Yankees (who added a run in the bottom of the 5th) to make outs so we could see Abbott go back out to the mound. All of a sudden, you were nervous for the pitcher. Any foul ball or hard hit ball to the outfield made you lose your breath for a second. I don’t remember what inning it was, but the one play that stands out in my mind was Wade Boggs making a diving grab to keep the no-hitter in tact. Everyone was standing for the final two innings. Imagine how unlikely this could be to witness. A man born with one hand standing on the mound in The House That Ruth Built, 27,225 people cheering in unison, hoping to will him to the final out. And as Carlos Baerga grounded out to shortstop, sealing the deal for Abbott, we exploded in jubilation, the pinnacle of individual accomplishment in a team sport. We high-fived everyone around us, fans of the enemy team, because we were all elated that we had chosen this day to attend what should’ve been a meaningless ballgame in the Bronx.
As we drove home, we were all too happy to be able to rub it in to the Yankee fans we knew, that “we were there”. And even though we still despised the New York Yankees and everything they stood for, we were so happy to have gone to the old ballpark in the Bronx that cloudy Saturday afternoon in September. I’ll spare us all about some cliché about following your dreams, never giving up, or anything like that. I will say that despite all my hatred for the Yankees, there certainly was something to be said about the “mystique and aura” about that old building. I think the more important thing I take from that day isn’t about the ghosts of Ruth and Gehrig. Its not about overcoming adversity. It’s another cliché, the kind that I can actually stomach. It’s the old baseball cliché, “Come out to the ballpark. You never know what you’re gonna see”.