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Commentary : Yankee Stadium Becomes Devil's Workshop

July 13, 1985|JOHN JEANSONNE | Newsday

Please allow me to introduce myself. Those first three innings at Yankee Stadium Thursday night were some of my best stuff:

--Three hit batsmen--one in the back of the head, another close to the head.

--An intentional collision that left blood along the first-base line.

--The Yankee Stadium crowd cheering the crack of the skull.

--The Yankee Stadium scoreboard imploring the fans to boo an opposing player.

I knew it all along. Evil sells. Oh, I like Yankee Stadium as a workshop. A lot of idle minds are there.

You don't believe me? Dave Winfield hits a two-run homer in the first inning and the next thing you know Texas rookie Glen Cook, a man known for his control pitching in the minor leagues, bounces a throw off the leg of the next Yankee hitter, Ron Hassey.

That may not seem so devilish to you, but it's when I started rubbing my hands together. Let me show you some of my subsequent work, based on the knowledge that the manager in the Yankee dugout would not be subscribing to any living-well-is-the-best-revenge philosophy.

I love Silly Ball. Its purpose is to fix the other guy's wagon. It flies in the face of that out-of-date wisdom that says, "God'll get you for that." Silly Ball answers a push with a shove, with no regard for a man's health nor a team's strategic situation. In Silly Ball, line drives are the last things one would describe as wicked.

Willie Randolph homers in the second inning and, after Mike Pagliarulo strikes out, Cook puts a pitch behind Bobby Meacham's ear. Meacham, in ducking, takes the ball off his right shoulder and it ticks his batting helmet into the air. See, the beauty of those happenings is that nobody can say for sure if they were intentional. Nobody knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Hey, I made 'em do it. And you know why? Because I knew nobody would be in high dudgeon about a little violence. Nobody was going to be thrown into a snit if the Yankees were to retaliate. On the contrary, the paying customers would welcome it.

Silly Ball feeds on that. So Yankee pitcher Joe Cowley, facing the first Texas batter after Meacham had been winged, sailed a pitch off the back of Curtis Wilkerson's head, sending Wilkerson sprawling in the dirt.

An accident?

"I'm not a mind reader," Texas Manager Bobby Valentine said.

An accident?

"I don't think so," Wilkerson said.

I was giddy, and so were the fans, applauding when the Yankee manager emerged from his safe corner, along with Valentine, to be told by plate umpire Marty Springstead to cool it. Valentine confirmed that he said something to Billy Martin.

"I said 'Hello,' " Valentine said. "I didn't get to see him before the game."

Disavow any knowledge. Stonewall! Great. Great.

"Cowley didn't want to hit the guy," Martin, wide-eyed, explained. "When you do that, you wake 'em up, and you never want to wake 'em up."

Heh-heh. Good. Good. Feign innocence. Tell 'em it's all in the game. No harm done.

And then, two batters after Wilkerson has to be scraped up with a fork and a spoon, Texas' Toby Harrah's high hopper pulls Cowley near the first-base line, and Harrah veers slightly to his left to put a hard shoulder into Cowley, giving Cowley the rest of the night off, a broken nose, and six stitches.

Cowley is peeled off the infield and taken away and Texas--maybe angry, maybe lucky, maybe because of undeniable hitting talent--scores four runs in the inning to take a 4-3 lead. Eventually, a baseball game would break out, but I got my shots in. The managers were going eyeball to eyeball, using their players' eyeballs (and heads and noses), making sure not to back down.

No sympathy for me? Ha.

"I don't particularly like it," Valentine said. "I was hit in the face with a pitch in what could have been a career-ending injury. I know how it feels and I don't like to see it. But the game was meant to be an aggressive game, not a passive game. The aggressor usually wins out in the long run."

I win. I win. I got them to cross swords early. It was easy, like getting one guy to cut another off on the road, and then perfect the incident by having the second guy try to run the first one into a ditch in retaliation. Escalation.

Look, here, I broke up my no-hitter when Cook zapped Hassey. The Yankees and Rangers might have mended their fences after that. They might have dismissed it as a cry of "Wolf!" and let it go at that.

I wouldn't hear of it. Not when I knew I could get a headache out of Wilkerson and a busted nose out of Cowley. Not when I could get both the fans and the Yankee scoreboard to boo Harrah. Not when I could push the fans past a non-offensive, sarcastic chant of "To-by! To-by! To-by! to an obscene call directed at Harrah by the late innings.

I want some credit for sending those two mindless fans out onto the field to taunt the cops in the ninth inning, too. I had a hellacious time at the ballgame.

Pleased to meet you. Hope you guessed my name.

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