Please forgive my absence. I was working on a piece for another publication—one that people actually read—and I had a tight deadline. It’s an article that I was writing on spec. What that means, for those of you who don’t know, is that I pour sweat, blood, and 48 hours into working on the thing, and then the editors decide if they think it’s worth publishing. I tell you there’s nothing on earth more suspenseful and exhilarating than being a writer. Except maybe being a day trader. Or a strategist for John McCain. And, by the way, is it just me, or does he maybe have the same PR rep as Brett Favre and Celine Dion? (“I will go to the debate.” “ I won’t go to the debate.” “I will, but only if I can fix the economy first.” “OK. If you insist.”) Who knows? Maybe we’ll get lucky and he'll just retire before the election.
Speaking of the debates, Friday, the very same day that John McCain came to the conclusion that the government could manage the economic crisis without him for an hour, Paul Newman passed away. I will not attempt to write a tribute worthy of his greatness—plenty of people are already doing that, and most are failing. I will, however, say a couple of words about Newman and how he affected my life. First his work in Cool Hand Luke was what made me want to act. OK. That might not be totally true, but it contributed to my desire to be better at acting. Granted, I gave up that whole dream after high school. I mean, let’s get real; acting is great, but it is fraught with rejection, and most who try it are destined for failure. I wanted to do something more practical with a greater sense of security, which is why I went with writing. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that Cool Hand Luke was amazing. One of my all-time favorites.
The other story about Newman that relates to me was that I rode in an elevator with him once. Now, I’m not a person who’s easily moved, but this is Paul Newman we’re talking about. And I was humiliatingly starstruck. We had a brief conversation, during which he asked me a number of questions, all of which I answered by repeating them back to him in statement form. He was very gracious about it.
Whether you loved him for his brilliance on the screen, his dreamy blue eyes, his political leanings, his charitable contributions, his humility, or that delicious array of sauces, dressing, and cookies he brought to the world, you’d have to be made of stone not to have loved him at least a little. The world has lost a great man, and a great talent. So, why not take your bike for a spin today—in his honor? You know what song to sing. Doo doo doo doo—doo doo—doo doo doo doo.
But moving onto baseball. That is, after all, why you come here, right? For cutting edge insights on America’s favorite pastime that no one else has to offer.
The other day I was discussing the final outing at Yankee Stadium. It was a tearful goodbye involving actors playing great Yankees, real great Yankees, family members filling in for great Yankees. However, a couple of great Yankees were notably absent at last week’s ceremonies. No, not Roger Clemens. Like anyone wants him to represent anything having to do with anything great, at the moment. For the record, some may think that this is controversial, but I do not consider Clemens to be a Yankee, and I never have. He is a Chowda in his soul. 100%.
But the Yankees to whom I am referring are undoubtedly Yankees and undeniably great—Donnie Baseball and Joe Torre. Unlike Clemens, Mattingly and Torre were not, of course, deliberately excluded from the events. They just had a more pressing engagement, one they couldn’t get out of—leading the Dodgers to divisional victory.
Mattingly is one of the most beloved living Yankees. And, as the manager to lead the Yankees to twelve consecutive postseasons, Torre, though never a player for the team, is no less a Yankee than anyone who ever was. He is certainly not less admired. The two of them have been such an integral part of the Yankees' recent history that it felt practically criminal to close down the shop without them, particularly since we never got to give them a proper sendoff after last season. Sunday’s ceremony allowed us the chance to show Bernie how we felt. And, while Mattingly and Torre are no doubt aware of how much we love them, it still would have been nice to have given them that last ovation in the Bronx.
Both Torre and Mattingly were, not surprisingly, ill-treated at the hands of the Yankees top brass. If the Steinbrenners have a motto, it seems to be: The family that betrays together stays together. First, of course, they insulted Torre by offering him a pay cut and incentives for getting to the playoffs and World Series. Torre, the man who led the Yanks to twelve consecutive postseasons, six trips to the big dance, and four world championships. Torre, of course told them that they could take their incentives and shove them up their pujols. But in a nice, classy, respectful way. Like he says everything.
Then it was Mattingly’s turn to get burned, when they decided to give Girardi the job rather than him. Which was obviously an awesome move. The 2008 Yankees were really well-managed.
They say that living well is the best revenge. And what better opportunity for Torre and Mattingly to exact their revenge through good living than the move to Los Angeles? No, I’m not talking about eating organic, getting high colonics, and waking up at dawn to go surfing. Though, it’s not impossible that all that is happening. The Southern California air does crazy things to people. And Torre is looking pretty relaxed these days. However, what I am referring to is the fact that, while the Yankees will be watching the postseason from their 62 inch flatscreens for the first time since the pre-Torre era, the Dodgers have just clinched their first division title in four years. The fact that Torre has let it be known that he didn’t luck into those twelve consecutive postseasons—it’s just that everything he touches turns to gold. Even without an incentive clause in his contract. And without him, well, apparently things fall apart. As for Mattingly? He gets to go along for the ride, sending the message, “Yeah, what he said. That goes double for me, too.” The bonus is, of course, that they are finally free of the ulcers that must inevitably comes from daily interactions with some member of the Steinbrenner clan. That and the high colonics.
Meanwhile, back in Flushing. Well, I’m not even going to comment. I am just going to hold my breath until it’s over. As for Chowdaville, Moose is trying to work his way to twenty. Fingers crossed. He got some help with a little run support early on. As a side not on the game, you won’t have a chance to tell Coco Crisp how much he sucks because they did not start him. Why? Probably because you suck Coco Crisp.