My formative years as a baseball fan came in the second half of the 1990’s. 1995 was that season for me when baseball meant too much, but as a Red Sox fan it was a thrilling year. Mo Vaughn won the MVP, Tim Wakefield introduced me to the knuckleball and the Sox won the AL East.
I went to Fenway for the first time on August 14th of that summer to see the Red Sox pound the Yankees 9-3 behind home runs by Mo Vaughn and Tim Naehring. Even the pre-game moment of silence to recognize the recent passing of Mickey Mantle did nothing to diminish Red Sox Nation’s vitriol for the Bronx Bombers, particularly Daryl Strawberry.
I remember loving the “Daryl” chants and in his honor I learned every slang term for cocaine that night, but I wondered, why did we hate the Yankees so much? They were no threat to the Red Sox. We had a staff of Roger Clemens, Tim Wakefield and Erik Hanson, how could the Yankees even compete with a rotation of scrubini’s like Jimmy Key, David Cone and Jack McDowell?
It was a miracle in 1995 that the poor Yankees even made it to the playoffs as a wild card and even more laughable to compare their star player, the broken down first basemen Don Mattingly to our immortal Mo Vaughn. For crying out loud, they had a faceless rookie at shortstop while we had Luis Alicea! Game, set & match Red Sox, am I right?
I was wrong. The Yankees would win the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. New York would steamroll the American League all summer, belittle Baltimore in the playoffs (Jeffrey Maier should’ve been arrested. Trash.) and then eradicate the NL rep (probably the Braves) in the World Series. Every year I’d say “Well with Atlanta’s pitching staff, they’ll surely beat the Yankees.”
It was sort of fun to be a Braves fan for a couple of weeks and root against the Yankees in their march to ruin baseball each fall. I cheered like hell for Andruw Jones when he homered twice in game 1 of the 1996 series. I talked myself into the idea that somehow the 1998 Padres could beat the Yankees, even though their lineup started and ended with Tony Gwynn. In 1999, I just knew the Braves would exact their revenge for ’96, you know now that Cecil Fielder and Jim Leyritz were gone.
In 2000, well in 2000 I knew the Mets had zero chance of beating the Yankees and honestly I’m not even sure I wanted the Mets to win. 2000 was a dark, dark time. I was a high school freshmen and the Yankees were trying their best to ruin baseball.
2001 though, now that was fun. Because finally the Yankees had competition. Arizona featured a lineup where solid major leaguers clicked all at the same time. Journeymen like Luis Gonzalez and Craig Counsell had career years, but it was Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson that made me believe that this year was different. I watched every inning of that series, with game 7 being one of the greatest games I’ve ever watched. The Red Sox weren’t involved at all and yet they were still the basis of everything. The Yankees were evil, somebody had to bring them down, if it couldn’t be the Red Sox, then it had to be someone. I got to revel with the Diamondbacks in 2001 and sip champagne with the upstart Marlins in 2003. Is it any coincidence that Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett would find their way to Boston after alpha dogging the Yankees in October?
Everybody has seen the bumpersticker “I root for two teams, the Boston Red Sox and whoever beats the Yankees.” Truer words may never have been spackled onto the backside of a Honda Accord. So let’s go Stros! (Or Nats, hell I don’t care as long as nobody wearing pinstripes is happy by Halloween.)