By Frank J. Dinan
Being a New York Yankees fan isn’t as easy as it sounds. I have been one for decades and over the years have found that the baseball world is divided into two categories: Yankee fans (my tribe) and Yankee haters. The latter group is also known as ABYs (anybody but the Yankees), and their favorite team is the one playing New York on any given day.
The Yankees have a long and proud winning tradition, but their fans also have a big problem: We have managed to define our way into unhappiness. By our own wildly unrealistic standards, any season in which the Yankees fail to win the World Series is considered a losing one.
So, we have been failing every year since 2009, when our team won its 27th World Series title; we are now on a nine-year losing streak. Our self-defined pain is admittedly dumb, and unrealistic, but it still hurts. The Yankees won 100 games in 2018, and that’s a great year, but not good enough for us; the Red Sox were even better, and they beat the Yankees in the postseason, so our demented clan considers 2018 a bad year. How is that for irrational? (The Red Sox are playing the Dodgers in the World Series.)
On the day after the Yankees were knocked out of the playoffs, I was in mourning. My sorrow though was every Yankee hater’s joy, and I don’t begrudge them that because I know that our time will come again. I remember the decades of suffering that many baseball fans (think of the Red Sox and Cubs, among others) went through while waiting for their day in the sun.
Reflecting on this caused me to wonder why Yankee fans become so hooked on them. I decided to survey my Yankee friends to see what motivated them. Here is a sample of what I found:
"When I was a boy the man across the street used to listen to Yankee games on the radio while sitting on his porch, and I listened with him. I came to root for them.”
“My father took me on a baseball excursion to Cleveland when I was a kid. The Indians played the Yankees, and the Yankees won both halves of a doubleheader. That did it for me.”
“The whole Yankee aura, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Billy Martin, George Steinbrenner, all of them. They drew me like a magnet.”
“I grew up in Buffalo, and lived with ‘wide right’ and ‘no goal’ so long that I wanted to back a winner. The Yankees were it.”
These are hardly profound reasons, but they represent the little twists of fate that so often shape our lives in unexpected ways. I personally became hooked on the Yankees through my general fascination with the glamour of New York City life: reading Damon Runyon’s stories about New York characters, hearing Broadway’s great music, listening to nighttime jazz from the city on the radio, riding the subways, going to the Empire State Building and Coney Island while visiting the city as a freshman in high school.
The Yankees just seemed like a natural extension of all of the Big Apple’s glitz and glamour, and when Don Larsen threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, I was hooked for good. I can still remember exactly where I was standing, listening to the radio and rejoicing at the final out in that game.
I love every aspect of the game of baseball, and its long history, but rationally or irrationally, for trivial reasons or not, I still love the pinstripes the most.
Frank J. Dinan is an emeritus professor in chemistry/biochemistry at Canisius College.