It wound up the first Opening Day meltdown for Mariano Rivera that I (Evander) can recall since 1997, when MR was first given the job of closer and promptly gave something in return: a pitch turned around to a mammoth home run, at the former Yankee Stadium, by Mark McGwire. (I was there. It remains the longest home run I’ve ever seen in person: rocketing about 420 feet.)
Back to yesterday. Manager Joe Girardi pulled an astonishing stunt of brinksmanship that I had never seen on TV or at the ballpark—which may save saved the 2001 World Series in Arizona had he been managing then—by pulling Nick Swisher from left field and inserting an extra infielder. In essence, the Yankees had seven infielders (including the battery). Girardi also ordered the walking of two batters once the score was tied—to load the bases for a potential double-play to end the regulation nine innings in a tie—another move of confidence that did not pan out. (Cricket enthusiasts will not be so surprised, with the more fluid field positioning of that game.)
In a recent podcast, I predict Tampa Bay for first place and the Yankees for one of two Wild Cards in 2012. It is unlikely the Rays will go 162-0 or the Yankees 0-162. I’d have a better chance buying the winning Mega Millions ticket.
To calm my nerves on this holy evening, I settled in to watch Big Leaguer (1953). It stars Edward G. Robinson (to keep to the holiday season, the Yiddish-theater-trained actor who played Dathan in The Ten Commandments) as the manager of a New York (before the move to San Francisco) Giants spring-training tryout camp in Florida. In Right Off the Bat, Martin and I survey some of the outstanding baseball and cricket films. Not to make too many excuses (cough cough), it is tough (of course!) to include everything in those few pages allotted. We leave “out” Eight Men Out from John Sayles, and others possibly even more worthy in our readers’ eyes.
The E. G. Robinson picture includes every baseball nugget imaginable: actors meant to be eighteen but looking to be closer to thirty-five, as well as the Old Pro Stuffed Shirt (Robinson) no longer wanted by management in those early rock-and-roll, cold war days before age-discrimination legislation—though he is still much loved and needed by his baseball-groupie niece.
It all turns out OK. The son of a stern-European-hates-baseball type winds up a top prospect under minor-league contract, with a proud-as-punch dad; the son of a gloating father (I think a former ballplayer himself) doesn’t make it, as his father sadly but in sportsmanlike fashion agrees; and the cocky pitcher cut by Robinson (whom EGR believes at the time might be “the one that got away”) catches a break with the rival Brooklyn Dodgers. Girl (groupie, more-or-less Anne Francis-like dancer and period-actress Vera-Ellen) also gets boy. Carl Hubbell has a significant role as does the lesser-recognized Al Campanis.