damn yankees

In 1983, The Official New York Yankees Hater’s Handbook was published.  A Twin Cities radio station sponsored a promotion, offering prizes to the winners that included the book, a button, a T-shirt, and a ticket to a Twins-Yankees game.

You were required to send in a postcard with an explanation of why you should be a winner.  Mine talked about the challenge of growing up with seven cousins from North Dakota, all with first names starting with “T” (which I included for the alliteration effect), bred from their earliest days to be Yankee fans.

I was selected as one of the winners and attended the game.  I still have the book and the button somewhere, but the T-shirt somehow got smaller over the years and was abandoned.  I don’t remember the outcome of the game, but knowing the history, I probably came away disappointed.

Three decades before, Damn Yankees premiered on Broadway.  The Wikipedia entry for it calls it a “modern retelling of the Faust legend.”  The summary of the plot starts out, “Middle-aged real estate agent Joe Boyd is a long-suffering fan of the pathetic Washington Senators baseball team.”  Boyd wants nothing more than to see his team beat the dominant Yankees.

Those familiar with baseball will know that the Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became the Twins.  As a young boy, I was able to attend a game in old Met Stadium that first year.

While a Broadway musical wraps up nice and neat in two or three hours, the battle with the Yankees continues on.  And, despite a few down periods here and there, the Bronx Bombers are the most famous and successful franchise in history.

For the last sixteen years, one of my cousins and his wife have hosted family and friends at the three games of the Twins-Yankees series in Minneapolis.  He and one of his siblings abandoned the Yankees for the Twins some years ago (thus being cut out of the will, according to the others), but a good percentage of the attendees come dressed head to toe in Yankees gear.

Over the years, I’ve kidded them about their pinstriped underwear, and I posted a New Yorker cartoon on a family Facebook page that shows a medieval Viking with the Yankee logo on his horned helmet, as he says, “It doesn’t mean anything, Eyfrod.  I just like how it looks.”  But the ribbing has had no effect on their choices.

The Twins fans in the group have had to put up with a lot of losing to the hated Yankees, who are 94-44 since 2000 in regular season head-to-head contests.  They’ve also won the last ten games between the two teams in the playoffs.

But hope springs eternal.  As far as I know, no one made a deal with the devil, but the Twins are resurgent this year, making the matchup this week highly anticipated.  It did not disappoint.

The slugfest started with the Twins winning the first game.  Then came Tuesday’s five-hour brawl, which is being proclaimed the game of the year by sports commentators around the country.  It was truly extraordinary.  Unfortunately, the wrong team won in extra innings.  So last night’s game would determine the series winner and also afford bragging rights in the family suite.  But you know what happened.  Damn Yankees.

Since I try to be honest in these postings, I have to admit that my anger toward the Yankees is mostly show.  I just don’t get very hyped up about sports, even though I love the battle.  I almost always cheer for the underdog, which means rooting against the Yankees all the time.  But I have admired a number of their players over the years.  (Please don’t tell anyone that.)

As always, my aunt and uncle were there this week, along with many of their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Forty or fifty people get together for each of the games, and there is much shouting – and maybe a few prayers – for each side.  (There were 57 runs scored in all, so there was plenty to cheer about.)

As we said goodbye to each other, the professed hate melted away.  The ties that bind took over (at least until the Twins beat the Yankees in October).

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