|Derek Jeter HR in 2001|
NEW YORK - Raul Ibanez clocked two homers to give the New York Yankees an amazing playoff victory the other night and it made me think of a special day in 2001, a day that surely was going to be the worst day of my life.
It was Halloween, October 31, 2001, and I boarded a Long Island Rail Road train from Penn Station in Manhattan headed to Mineola, Long Island where my dear, then 76-year old Mom was scheduled to have surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on her lung. The prognosis on lung surgery for a 70-something with (supposed) lung cancer was not a pretty picture.
Amazingly, the procedure ended quickly and the news was either going to be very good or very bad. The doctor came out to meet with me and my older brother, Tom.
The surgeon smiled.
At a teaching hospital that is Winthrop University Hospital, they actually called a "time-out" in the operating room to summon the students to show them the rarity - a patient who did not need major surgery and all-out cancer prevention lung removal that was the usual modus operandi for an elder. For my Mom, it was the opposite. Incredibly, all was well and they took a sliver of lung to test to be sure they were right.
Post surgery, all she needed was rest, so it was time to thank God, my lucky stars and head back to Manhattan. I had a smile from ear to ear. It was, indeed a miracle. Then, the phone rang. My buddy, Kevin, had an extra ticket to a World Series game at Yankee Stadium that very night. How he obtained the tickets, I do not know, but it was just what (my) doctor ordered, a chance to "air it out" with some good friends.
We were seated in the furthest section out in right field, possibly the worse seats in the house, way in the upper deck. I could not have been happier as I settled in with a half dozen friends, all of whom knew the emotional roller-coaster I'd ridden to The Bronx that day. Like the best of friends, they let me be, and Kevin, the smartest of the smart, let me open up gradually as the game progressed and I nervously and cathartecally peeled the labels off plastic bottles of cold Buds we were soaking in.
Little did we know what the future would bring that night as October was left behind and November 1st was upon us. Derek Jeter, the Yankee shortstop and undeniable Hall of Fame legend came to bat and he faced the phenom of a bullpen closer named Byung Hyun-Kim of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jeter took a 3-2 pitch to the opposite field and lined a homer to give the Yankees a 4-3 extra innings victory. Jeter was dubbed, not, "Mr. October," like Reggie Jackson before him. Jeter performed the new miracle and claimed the name, "Mr. November."
Paraphrasing Jack Buck when he had witnessed baseball history in '88 when the LA Dodgers' Kirk Gibson stepped up, cracked a line-drive HR and limped his way to baseball infamy, "I couldn't believe what I just "saw."
Yankee Miracles. Time and time again.
Whether you are a die-hard NY Yankees fan or a bitter rival, you can't deny the fact that the Munsons, Jacksons, Jeters of the world perform in the clutch, never mind telling the true tales going back to the "Five O'clock Lightening" days of the Gehrigs, Mantles, Maris' and Ruths.
Damn, the very next night, a relatively unknown third baseman, Scott Brosius, delivered another, extra-inning, bottom of the 12th HR to send the series back to Arizona where the Diamondbacks would eventually win. My point in all of this? The damn New York Yankees perform "Miracles," time and time again.
That brings me to this recommendation: Check out "Yankee Miracles," a book by Ray Negron and Sally Cook, just published by Liveight Publishing Co., a book that chronicles it all - "The Yankee Miracles - and Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers."
It is not so much a story of on-field heroics as described above. It is much more touching and impactful story of a Queens teenager who was once caught with a can of spray paint expressing his love for the Yanks on the hallowed walls outside The Stadium. As fate would have it, Negron was apprehended by legendary team owner, the late George Steinbrenner and he and Sally Cook skillfully tell the story of that pivotal moment and its remarkable aftermath.
As the book trailer states, "the antithesis of Ball Four or The Bronx Zoo in tone, "Yankee Miracles" doesn't dwell on steroids, drug use, and locker room scandals. Instead, it creates a portrait of Yankees baseball told a baseball insider, who was given a very unique second chance." Negron's unique perspective on George Steinbrenner is based on the successive breaks the Boss gave him over the four decades, as he worked his way up from batboy to head of community outreach for the Yankees.
It's a great read for this wonderful time of year and is well worth your time, whether the Yankees advance in the MLB Playoffs or not.
And, by the way, my Mom is doing well and feeling great.