The Yankee, Andy Pettitte, would, when his turn came, stare down the same tunnel with a look of smoldering Sicilian sanpaku. He looked like Rudolph Valentino playing a dark, wordless, dangerous loverboy. Valentino beat Winters. Mike Piazza flied out at exactly the stroke of midnight, and the Yankees took the World Series in five games.
Televised baseball, especially in big games that are the sport's full carnival, offers an individualism of faces, closeups of intense privacy (pitchers thinking, scratching themselves, anguishing, waving off the sign, spitting, trying to deliver a ball very hard from mound to plate with precision, as if a neurosurgeon were hurling darts 60 feet down a hospital corridor at a patient's neocortex). The spectacle has something in common with a bullfight matador on the mound, bull at the plate, multitudes eating and drinking and whooping in the stands in a tableau of casual, ceremonious pageantry.
I wish I could be a Yankee fan. I gave it up years ago, toward the end of the Reggie Jackson era. It was a great team then Jackson, Winfield and the rest. I loved to watch Willie Randolph slick, perfect, self-contained at second. But there was the intolerable Steinbrenner, and you paid a price in the stands. A drunk always showered beer on you from the second deck and games with the Boston Red Sox would degenerate into tribal brawls after the sixth inning, when everyone had had enough suds to be a real moron.
This World Series reduced the "World" to two of the five boroughs of New York City. Media sentimentalism ensued, nostalgic rhapsodies about the "subway series." My guess is that the rest of the country is satisfied to watch one New York team at a time at most. One species of the lout is enough. Most people do not distinguish the mythologies of the Mets from those of the Yankees (it's not the same as the old Yankee-Dodger dichotomy) and so it was hard for outlanders to know which side to root for.
It may be worthwhile to have a postmortem on one moment of notable idiocy that occurred early on, when the Yankee pitcher, Roger Clemens, delivered a pitch that shattered Mike Piazza's bat, the broken barrel of which came flying out toward the mound to be fielded by Clemens. Clemens caught the jagged piece of bat and threw it toward the first base line.
The idiocy is what followed: The television play-by-play man, Joe Buck, went sanctimoniously nuts, howling at Clemens as if he were the Son of Sam; and other media joined in the braying, which reached such a pitch that the commissioner felt obliged to impose a fine of $50,000 on Clemens for his murderous act. The New York Times' columnist Maureen Dowd seized the occasion; she used the incident as a metaphor of male aggression in another one of her cheeky, tedious sermonettes on testosterone and the imbecility of the male.
No wonder everyone hates the media. Clemens was not trying either to hit or to menace Piazza. Clemens had a broken bat come flying at him and he caught it and threw it off the field as if to say, "Get this damn thing out of my face." The idea that he would try to hit Piazza (only the third batter he faced) and risk getting thrown out of the game is plain stupid. Clemens didn't even realize Piazza was in the basepath. In the event, the umpire saw no reason to eject Clemens. But a media circus of the plain stupid went to work.
I'm relieved the series is over. And in a little more than a week, the other media circus, the endless presidential campaign, will also be over, at last.