Friday, October 30, 2009

The Yankees

I live in New York City now, the same city as one of the winningest teams in the history of sports. I don't know, maybe the Montreal Canadiens won more Stanley Cups, maybe the Celtics won more basketball championships, maybe the Chinese Olympic Ping Pong team is still undefeated. But there is no question that when it comes to winning, no team is better known for it, no team better symbolizes it than the New York Yankees. And there they are once again in the World Series, vying for the 41st time to be the baseball champions of the world.

Of course, now that I spend all my time in museums, theatres, and concert halls, I know nothing, absolutely nothing, about the current Yankee team. Ah, but the great teams of the past, their stories still enthrall me. Pictures of the Babe on the street or in the newspaper always make me look. Stories about Gehrig or DiMaggio invariably pique my interest. And the Mick, as flawed as he was, his history still calls me, going all the way back to the schoolboy biographies by Gene Schoor and extending to a recent book like Pete Golenbock's silly fictional biography titled "Seven."

I don't even know quite why, really, because winning interests me so little, though I am endlessly fascinated by great performances. Often, it seems to me, there is a difference. But in the case of the Yankees, even though their individual performances were not always that great, they came together in the right moments again and again and again to outdo their opponents. It makes me think of the psychological side of competition, about which I still think we know so little, but in the case of the Yankees, they were so determined to win, and so confident that they would, that far more often than not they did prevail over the competition. No matter who that competition was and no matter how handicapped the Yankees were by injuries or by their own self-inflicted deficiencies (read: too much carousing), they found a way to come out on top.

Of course, even as I make these claims above, which only partially hold up, I return to the Babe, whose greatness, as compared to everyone else in his own time, is so surpassingly remarkable, so incredible, that he remains the standard in sports by which we measure anyone who is head and shoulders above all others. Now we have Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan, too, but when you look closely at what the Babe did, relative to his contemporaries, there just is no comparison. And when you think of the Babe, it only takes a second before you think of him in that Yankee uniform waddling around the bases at the old Yankee Stadium after striking still another towering home run.

1 comment:

  1. "The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again." Field of Dreams
    Makes me feel the tingle in my hands....