My youngest daughter made her first communion this spring. She looked like an angel, dressed up in a pooffy
white dress which she could wear as her bridal gown, if 8 year olds actually got married. She had the veil and the gloves, the obligatory cross necklace and white high heeled shoes. She wore her first high heels. By the end of the day, she hated them, but I just told her it was part of being a girl. We are uncomfortable. Get used to it.
The party afterwards, at my house was full of family and friends. Some of these friends we have known for over 30 years. We have shared many good times, and bad times with the happiness and sorrow melding together to form the bond that unites us. We have grown old together. And when old friends get together, as usual, we began talking about the present, our futures and our combined past. The good times we had, and the things we wish we could have changed. One of our richest memories of the past included a fanatical Yankee Fan named Mike.
Mike is a character. He is one of those people with a heart of gold who wouldn’t intentionally hurt anyone, but lacking in the ability to socially successfully carry out his intentions. He is loud and from my observations, doesn’t usually think before he speaks. He has an addictive personality, which he has conquered in many ways to the joy and relief of his family and friends. But this addictive personality now shines through when he hooks onto an idea that he feels is meaningful and he is unable to let it go. No matter what happens, whether it was about his church being remodeled, the plight of the homeless, or his local support group, Mike puts all his energy into the topic forefront in his head abandoning all other ideas until justice has been served. And in 1995 the topic du jour was the NY Yankees pitching rotation.
The NYY pitching rotation is always a topic of conversation. Whether its 2009 with Joba’s inning limits, 2010 and who is the 5th starter and why is Javy Vasquez on the team, or 2011’s do the NYY have a true consistent starter beyond
CC. The pitching rotation is the centerpiece of any team and responsible for leading the defense against all competitors. In 1995, Mike became enamored with a new call up who was starting in the NYY rotation. Now, my opinion of prospects varies greatly from most other fans. I see prospects as poker chips to be played or cashed in.
My favorite saying about prospects is “Don’t name the cattle”. As a cattle rancher, you wouldn’t give a name to every animal in your herd. Besides time consuming, well, you know what will happen to the cattle.
At every chance, at every night out, we heard about this young pitcher from Mike. I remember waiting for the movie Apollo 13 to start while Mike droned on about this new prospect and how great and exciting he was. And how this guy he had such a long career ahead of him. How this prospect was the best thing since Star Wars, sliced bread and running water combined. This obsession was much more than a one way bromance, it was truly over the top, a stalker type obsession.
And this was an obsession that he shared with everyone. Mike wasn’t content to share his bromance with only our group of friends. Oh No, Mike was a regular caller into talk radio. Often while out, I would hear Mike call into the Mike and the Mad Dog show. “Mike from XXXX you’re on the air”. Those words began to fill me with terror. I truly felt bad for the guy, knowing we were all about to be showered with more bromance love. Mike and the Mad Dog even discussed on air what could make a fan be so enamored with this pitcher for it to borderline on
obsession. For what was so humorous to all of us, except Mike, was that this guy really wasn’t that great a starter. He wasn’t very good at all. He had a 5.94 ERA, not very good, but much better than anything I could ever throw. But for some reason, Mike had fallen in love with this pitcher and wouldn’t let him go. Just as fans fall in love with a player, and become blind to their faults, Mike was blinded to this prospect’s faults as a pitcher. To Mike, this guy was Cy Young.
This led to playful bantering as only friends could do where Mike would defend this player to death until going totally off on us. Of course, this eventually led to this topic was all but banned from our group. Whenever the conversation started, one of us would quickly change the subject to something less stressful like war, famine, poverty, taxes, politics or basically anything else. Even the mere mention of the NYY filled the group with fear. Gossip was even more favorable than another tirade and ruined evening. Who wanted to hear his fantasy land about the fabulous
pitcher all the time? Who really cared?
Eventually, the NYY had enough of the situation too. The guy bounced around between the majors and AAA, and eventually he was placed in the bullpen. If we thought Mike was over the top with this bromance before, we had no idea that what was to come would make Fatal Attraction look sane.
Mike went on a personal rampage to get this guy his starting pitcher job back. Now, we may all vent on Facebook or Twitter, but I do not see any of us actively trying to change the NY Yankee roster. But you haven’t met Mike. Mike complained to everyone who would listen, he was well off the deep end. He started his campaign with incessant calls to talk radio, trying to rally fans to protest this injustice. He argued so vehemently with Mike Francesa that Mad Dog was mocking him afterwards for the rest of the show. Eventually, Mike was blocked from calling their show. I know, hard to believe anyone gets blocked from that show. So then, Mike began phoning people in the NY Yankee organization to make his point. I know how much I love when people not involved in my job, call me at work to tell me how to do my job, especially over the top hysterical people. So I can just imagine how great these attempts to contact the NYY front office went over. He tried desperately to reach George Steinbrenner himself to explain the error of the NY Yankees ways. Mike tried to find out his private phone number, address and even George’s schedule. Mike planned to casually bump into George at some affair in the city and explain to him that the NYY didn’t know
what they were doing and had no pitching management skills. (Part of me wanted to be there for that conversation,
the other part of me wanted to hide in fear.) When meeting George didn’t work out, Mike tried to talk to every executive he could think of. When our group visited to the old Yankee Stadium, Mike would disappear while he tried to get into the executive offices to plead his case. Everyone from the parking attendants to the concession stand employees to security guards to the police stationed in the stadium knew Mike’s position. They all nicely sympathized with him, while politely telling him to move on. Our group, for the most part, pretended we had no idea who he was while quietly ensuring we had enough money amongst ourselves to bail him out of jail. I was expecting to see his picture posted by the entrance gates with Do Not Admit printed underneath.
The man was obsessed. He knew this young pitcher had so much potential. How could he see this man’s worth and no one else? If only the Yankees could see it.
Eventually, and thankfully, a new girlfriend put this quandary to bed, before Mike got himself arrested as a stalker. It was a funny moment from out past that we all chuckled over as we consumed Lasagna and brownies in honor of Chloe’s first communion. Mike has since moved on, and is today still a productive member of society who has overcome many obstacle to be a respected community leader.
And when all was said and done, ironically, Mike was right. This young pitcher did have great talent. Great drive! Great stuff! But not starting pitching stuff. Closing pitching stuff. Yes, this poor pitcher that Mike spent that
summer obsessing over was the one and only Mariano Riviera.
Mo just earned his 25th save this season. This was his 15th season with at least 25 saves. A feat that I do not
think will ever be matched. And shortly, he will notch his 600th save, all as a Yankee. He has had a most remarkable career, a Hall of Fame career. He has lived an unimaginable existence. He is the greatest closer of all time. He did have the right stuff.
Imagine if Mike had actually met George Steinbrenner, and
changed his mind and Mo’s past.