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August 16, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Many years from now, when I'm old and gray and, my grandchildren will gather around my feet.

"Grandpa! Grandpa! Tell us about the time that Aaron Boone hit the three-run home run in the ninth inning to win the game!"

"WHAT!?" I'll shout, because I'll be deaf then, too.

But then I'll turn on my aural implants, which convert sounds into a text format before my eyes, closely resembling an AIM chat. And I will tell them how the Yankees wasted many opportunities to blow the Orioles out, and pushed only two runs across in the first eight. And I'll tell them about Old Man Clemens, who had pitched so much better than his 11-7 record, and how he held the Orioles to a single run going into bottom of the eighth. And then, after retiring the first man in the inning, Joe Torre lifted him for Old Man Orosco.

"Jesse Orosco!" my grandchildren will say, "doesn't his grandson play for the Yankees now?"

"No," I'll reply, "it's the same guy."

And I will tell them how Orosco, brought in to retire two lefties, instead gave up a double and a single, and the Orioles tied the game. And then I'll tell them that the Yankees brought in Jeff Nelson, who they had traded for Armando Benitez, who had a reputation for melting down in big games, even though Nelson wasn't really any more reliable.

"Armando Benitez!" my grandchildren will gasp, "He's history's greatest monster!"

"Yes," I'll nod knowingly, "But we didn't know about that then. But I digress."

And I'll tell them how Nelson gave up the lead, and the Yankees went to the ninth trailing 3-2. And my grandchildren will weep, and break chairs, and say many swear words that they have no business knowing at that age, for they are truly my grandchildren. But I will raise my hand and hush them, and tell them how, in the ninth inning, after Hideki Matsui grounded out yet again, Jorge Posada singled past the second baseman, and was pinch-run for by Enrique Wilson.

"Why did Joe Torre do things like that?" My grandchildren will ask, confused. "Did he not understand that he was taking out one of his best hitters?"

"Ah, but Wilson would then steal second, avoiding a double play and getting into scoring position," I will explain.

"Okay," they said, "It worked out that time."

And then I will tell them how Nick Johnson (and they will sigh at that name) battled Orioles closer Jorge Julio after falling behind 0-2, and drew a walk.

"But, but," they will sputter, "doesn't that make the stolen base irrelevant?"

And Joe Morgan will enter the room and explain how the stolen base changed the nature of the at-bat, and how having a great base stealer is the most important part of a championship team. He will then deny ever saying that, and then leave.

"What happened then, Grandpa?" they will ask.

And then the room will turn dark. I will tell them about the 2003 trade deadline, and how the Yankees accquired Aaron Boone from the Cincinnati Reds, and how he was the suckiest suck that ever sucked. And I will tell them how they traded top prospect Brandon Claussen for Boone.

"The Brandon Claussen who won ten Cy Young Awards?" They will ask.


"The Brandon Claussen who pitched five perfect games?"

"The same."

"The Brandon Claussen who cured cancer, found Osama bin Laden, and opened communications with intelligent life on the other side of the galaxy?"

"Well," I'll say, "They weren't that intelligent. They still thought that it was a good idea to sacrifice a runner to second in the first inning."

And I will tell them how Aaron Boone hit the ball down the right field line, and how it landed inches in foul territory. And then I will tell them how he hit a fly ball down the left field line, and it hooked, and hooked, and was called foul by Jeff Nelson.

"The pitcher?" they will ask.

"No, the third base umpire," I'll reply. "Now stop asking questions, because I suck at writing dialouge!"

And they will stop. And I will tell them how the home plate umpire, who positioned himself perfectly on the line, overturned the call, and gave Boone the home run, and the Yankees the lead. And I will tell them how the Orioles fans booed and booed, and how they later taunted the umpire, saying that a ball that was fifty feet foul was a home run. And my grandchildren will wonder openly how they could be so stupid, as the ball was clearly fair. But I will explain to them that they didn't know this, because it happened before the government installed chips in our brain that tracked our thoughts, and told us whether a ball was fair or foul.

"And that was the time Aaron Boone hit the three-run home run in the ninth inning to win the game," I will say.

And my son will come in the room, and tell me to stop telling the kids made up stories. And then he'll pump me full of tranquilizers.