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Personalities

Pinstriped Portraits

We know our bombers like the backs of our hands—Jeter, Matsui, now the almighty A-Rod—but who exactly are the Yankees’ fans? And is there more to life than hating the Red Sox? Our man in Albany TOBIAS SEAMON finds out what ticks for a few diehard New York fans.

Ask baseball lovers about fans of the New York Yankees and they’ll say the team is followed by a combination of corporate bigwigs and criminal psychopaths. Michael Milken and Monk Eastman could serve as the clichéd prototypes of the typical Bronx rooter. Fat cats can usually be found sunning themselves in Yankee Stadium’s box seats, while the chanting masses in the bleachers bear a vague resemblance to Dead Rabbits, Plug Uglies, and other gangs of New York. As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle, especially in Susie’s basement bar in Albany, N.Y.

Located on the slightly dingier side of the Center Square section of town, Susie’s is a Yankee bastion. During Game 7 of the league championship series last year between New York and their archrival Boston Red Sox, Susie herself murmured, ‘C’mon, Yankees, we’ve got to beat those dirty-ass Red Sox,’ and that pretty much summed up the feelings of the regulars. Normally a quiet drinking spot for neighborhood types, during baseball season the place is liable to be filled with screams, moans, or out-and-out threats of bloody murder. The same couples quietly discussing mortgage rates, recipes, or favorite bed-and-breakfasts will turn into ravening maniacs the moment the Yankees screw up. So who are these people: a bunch of kindly Jekylls on their way to a neighborhood association meeting, or brutal Hydes, lurking in the shadows with hearts of darkness? To find out, a survey was in order.

The answers reveal that—gasp—rabid Yankee fans are about as normal as most people. They have good memories and bad ones, and, contrary to many reports, have at one time or another had their hearts broken by their beloved Bronx Bombers. Even from such a brief sampling, other trends became obvious. While fans obviously enjoy the team’s success, feelings were very mixed about club owner George Steinbrenner, and in fact the majority couldn’t stand the guy. Another notable find was that oddest of things in Yankee history: martyrdom. Former first baseman Don Mattingly was consistently named ‘favorite player in own lifetime.’ Mattingly, who played on some of the worst teams in Yankee club history, seems to become more and more iconic for his efforts in the face of failure. Another trend is the fall-off of a once-mighty rivalry between the Mets and the Yankees, at least so far as Yankee fans are concerned. The Subway Series between these teams was only four years ago, yet the Red Sox are the more disliked opponent by a long shot. Such things always go in cycles—the now ignored Cleveland Indians and their own raucous supporters were simply hated in the late ‘90s—so who knows who’ll be the face on the wanted poster in years to come.

Lastly, two notes on the survey process: The interviewer regrets the brevity of the sampling. There would have been another Yankee fan polled but the interviewer’s girlfriend was obviously suffering from some kind of fit when she took the survey; asked what she’d trade for another Yankee championship, she replied, ‘My boyfriend.’ That and all of her other answers were immediately discounted as ‘crazy talk.’ Also, while the interviewer himself is a die-hard Yankee fan, in no way, shape, or form did he want to skew the questions with any anti-Red Sox innuendo. Fans of our national pastime can view the poll safe in the knowledge that those dirty-ass SOBs from the Back Bay have been fairly represented.

But enough: Let the Yankee fans answer for themselves, in all their surprising(?) normalcy.

Albanian Pinstripers

Name: John ‘TPOJS’ Wagg

[‘TPOJS’ stands for ‘The Prince of Jay Street.’ Jay Street is a rather sedate block of row houses in the Center Square section of Albany.—ed.]

Age: 27

Profession/Daylight Activities:
Metal packaging professional

Hobbies and/or Addictions:
Guinness. The stoop. All sport, from bowling (crown green and ten pin) to NASCAR (as well as other sports not enjoyed by Mets fans—e.g. baseball).

Where are you from?
Royal Leamington Spa, England

How long have you lived in Albany?
Three and a half years

How long have you been a Yankee fan?
This will be my seventh season.

How did you become a Yankee fan?
A combination of style, good taste, and living in Boston (last part true, moved to America and was living with four crazed Yank fans in Allston). I have always been a winner.

Favorite Yankee Moment(s):
Aaron F***** Boone hitting Wakefield out of the park—combined with seeing Mariano falling to his knees on mound

[Reference to Boone/Wakefield is to Boone’s game-winning, playoff-ending home run off Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the 2003 playoffs; Mariano is Mariano Rivera, the normally implacable Yankee relief pitcher who collapsed in thankful prayer after Boone’s winning shot.]

Worst Yankee Moment(s):
Realizing I would have to spend valuable time and energy defending despicable George [Steinbrenner]

Favorite Yankee player (in own lifetime):
Mariano

Most hated Yankee player (with reason why):
Charles Gipson—nothing I despise more than incompetence

[Gipson was a reserve outfielder for the Yankees during the 2003 season; often used as a pinch runner in close games, he committed numerous base-running gaffes in his brief time with the team.]

Currently, most loathed opposition player:
Clemens—especially hate common bond forming with chowds

[Clemens is ex-Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens, who signed with the Houston Astros after the 2003 season; ‘chowds’ is an Albanian slur for the Boston Red Sox and/or their fans in reference to Boston clam chowder and/or chowderheads.]

What, if anything, would you be willing to trade for another Yankee championship?
There is no need to trade anything.

Steinbrenner: Evil genius or just plain evil?
Just plain stupid

More disliked: Mets or Red Sox?
Red Sox (That is not even close.)

Favorite sport overall:
Football (one with foot kicking ball, not with throwing and catching)

If on death row, last dinner request:
Fish & chips


* * *


Name: Bryan O’Malley

Age: 27

Profession/Daylight Activities:
Education campaign manager, otherwise known as an organizer.

Hobbies and/or Addictions:
Politics, baseball, college hoops, skiing

Where are you from?
Originally, small-town northwestern New Jersey, then a brief time in Providence, R.I.

How long have you lived in Albany?
Five and a half years

How long have you been a Yankee fan?
27 years

How did you become a Yankee fan?
Born into it

Favorite Yankee Moment(s):
1996 Jim Leyritz home run, Mariano crying on the ground after beating Sox

[In the 1996 World Series, versus the heavily favored Atlanta Braves, Leyritz’s unlikely, game-tying three-run home run in the late innings of Game 4 completely turned the momentum in the Yankees’ favor. New York went on to win the championship for the first time since 1978.]

Worst Yankee Moment(s):
The ‘80s, the strike, Donnie Baseball losing his only chance at a ring, and Luis-what’s-his-name’s bloop single in the ninth

[‘Donnie Baseball’ is the nickname of beloved Yankee first baseman Don Mattingly, who never won a championship despite many years with the team. The strike occurred in 1994, when the latter half of the season plus the entire postseason was cancelled due to the labor dispute. Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single off Rivera in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series clinched the title for the Arizona Diamondbacks.]

Favorite Yankee player (in own lifetime):
Donnie Baseball

Most hated Yankee player (with reason why):
Andy Hawkins. The man found a way to lose a no-hitter; he symbolized everything that was wrong with those Yankees teams.

[Former Yankee pitcher Hawkins did in fact lose a game in which he gave up no hits; the Yankees of that time—the late 1980s and early 1990s—were among the worst teams in baseball.]

Currently, most loathed opposition player:
Pedro Martinez, hands down

[Martinez is a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and was the focus of a brawl during Game 3 of the 2003 playoffs, at one point throwing aged Yankee coach Don Zimmer to the ground. In Martinez’s defense, Zimmer was charging him at the time. Nevertheless, Martinez’s actions were viewed by many as unnecessary. He never apologized regarding any aspect of the incident.]

What, if anything, would you be willing to trade for another Yankee championship?
Pedro’s salary; A-Rod (actually would encourage that one)

[A-Rod refers to recent Yankee acquisition Alex Rodriguez, the highest paid player in the game. The Yankees traded budding star Alfonso Soriano for Rodriguez in the much-debated deal.]

Steinbrenner: Evil genius or just plain evil?
Evil

More disliked: Mets or Red Sox?
Red Sox, hands down. The Mets have to be a factor to be disliked.

Favorite sport overall:
Baseball

If on death row, last dinner request:
Well, since if I managed to get on death row, it would probably be for some heinous action taken in a moment of sheer revile for Pedro, his head on a platter would probably no longer be a viable option. Therefore, I would take a Yankee Stadium hot dog (although the state may not be able to afford it, as I know I can’t).


* * *


Name: Karen Strong

Age: 28

Profession/Daylight Activities:
Biologist

Hobbies and/or Addictions:
Cooking, reading, gossiping about my neighborhood and watching baseball. (In the off season, I think about baseball, read updates every day, and watch spring-training games, but I have never watched a rerun game.)

Where are you from?
Scotchtown, Orange County, N.Y.

How long have you lived in Albany?
10 and a half years. Yikes.

How long have you been a Yankee fan?
Since 1998

How did you become a Yankee fan?
I had a roommate who loved the Yankees and watched every game. The first game I watched with him, [late ‘90s second baseman] Chuck Knoblauch hit a first-pitch home run, and I thought that was cool—way more exciting than I remember baseball. When I was young, I would rather sit under the piano bench at my aunt’s house than watch baseball with my cousins.

Favorite Yankee Moment(s):
All of ‘98, the 2003 Aaron Boone home run against the Red Sox and all those home runs after midnight in 2001

[The 1998 Yankees set an American League record for wins in a season before going on to capture the World Series. The 2001 home runs were in Games 3 and 4 of the 2001 World Series vs. Arizona, when on consecutive nights the Yankees entered the bottom of the ninth trailing and twice had players hit game-tying shots with two men already out. Veteran media personnel have described those moments as the loudest they ever witnessed at Yankee Stadium.]

Worst Yankee Moment(s):
2001 World Series loss to Arizona, loss of Pettite to Houston.

[With Clemens, longtime Yankee stalwart Andy Pettitte signed with the Houston Astros after the 2003 season.]

Favorite Yankee player (in own lifetime):
Tino Martinez [Martinez was the power-hitting first baseman during New York’s championship run in the late ‘90s.]

Most hated Yankee player (with reason why):
I don’t hate any Yankees (don’t know most of the staff well enough yet to hate them). I wasn’t too thrilled with Clemens at first, but I came around. Then I was pissed he signed with Houston, but at least we won’t play him—then I have all this respect for his accomplishments.

Currently, most loathed opposition player:
During the season I can answer better… Definitely a Red Sox player… maybe Pedro because of the whole Zim thing and hitting all those guys in the ALCS last year—but he’s so good I respect him. And the Yankees beat him more often than not. So maybe the cowboy-up guy—because that is so dumb.

[Boston first baseman Kevin Millar advised teammates to ‘cowboy up,’ offering a rallying cry for Red Sox players as well as their fans during the 2003 season. The ubiquitous slogan was widely disparaged by non-Bostonians.]

What, if anything, would you be willing to trade for another Yankee championship?
Didn’t we just trade Soriano? Wasn’t that enough?

Steinbrenner: Evil genius or just plain evil?
Evil… He should spend money and stay out of it. When he complained that we had no farm team after trading them all away… ugh. He’s just an annoying old fart. But I would totally kiss his ass if I met him.

More disliked: Mets or Red Sox?
The Red Sox. The Mets are not worth it.

Favorite sport overall:
Yankees baseball. I planned a trip to see my friend in Oakland around a Yankee series with the A’s.

If on death row, last dinner request:
Three black bean hard tacos with tomato and chips and salsa from the Taco Shack in New Paltz


* * *


Name: Lil Steve

Age: 28

Profession/Daylight Activities:
Sales/full-time student

Hobbies and/or Addictions:
No time for hobbies

Where are you from?
Central New York

How long have you lived in Albany?
Going on four years

How long have you been a Yankee fan?
All my life

How did you become a Yankee fan?
I was born into it

Favorite Yankee Moment(s):
This is only partly because of baseball. My grandfather took my brother and a friend to Yankee Stadium back in the ‘70s. I was still an infant. On the way back from the game while they were in the elevator, a guy handed my grandfather a note that said, ‘Can you read?’ My grandfather spouted back and said, ‘Of course,’ so he gave him another note that said, ‘Give me $50.’ He told him, ‘No fuckin’ way,’ so the guy pulled a gun out and put it to my brother’s head. He was about 10 or 11 years old. My grandfather didn’t flinch and he told the guy if he doesn’t get off at the next floor he was going to kick his ass and that the boys were going to finish him off when he was on the ground. The guy got off at the next floor with not a penny from my grandfather. Little did the guy know my grandfather had a grand in one pocket and almost two grand in the other. If he had taken out all that money, the guy would have wanted it all. He was a crazy bastard. But that was when kids didn’t have as much value as they do today. The next day they went to a double header (remember those?) and the Yanks won them both. Ever since I could remember, the Yankees reminded me of my grandfather and my brother. Needless to say when my brother and his friend got to school in the fall and the teacher asked what the highlight of their summer was, they had the best story.

Worst Yankee Moment(s):
The ‘80s

Favorite Yankee player (in own lifetime):
Mr. October, my first solid memory of baseball

[Mr. October was Reggie Jackson, whose clutch performances led the Yankees to two championships, in 1977 and 1978.]

Most hated Yankee player (with reason why):
Ricky Henderson, douche bag

[Henderson, a spectacularly talented player, was with the Yankees in the mid-’80s. Despite his ability to dominate a game, Henderson frequently loafed.]

Currently, most loathed opposition player:
Barry Bonds

[Bonds is the slugger-extraordinaire for the San Francisco Giants. Bonds’s lack of humility often is as notable as his talent.]

What, if anything, would you be willing to trade for another Yankee championship?
Nothing, it’s just a game

Steinbrenner: Evil genius or just plain evil?
Evil, when he thinks he can coach the team. Evil genius when he keeps his yapper shut and just signs the checks.

More disliked: Mets or Red Sox?
Red Sox. Who really cares about the Mets?

Favorite sport overall:
Football: It’s run better, and it should be the model that all professional sports should be compared to.

If on death row, last dinner request:
Mom’s homemade cavatelli, and for dessert a banana split perched on the naked stomach of Carmen Electra. ‘No thank you, officer, I don’t need a spoon.’


* * *


Name: Bill Beauvais

Age: 31

Profession/Daylight Activities:
Sportscenter I, Sportscenter II, Sportscenter III, mixed in with The Tony Kornheiser Show

Hobbies and/or Addictions:
Basketball, golf, softball, guitar, listening to Yankee games on the stoop

Where are you from?
Westport, N.Y. (40 mi. south of Plattsburgh)

How long have you lived in Albany?
Eight years

How long have you been a Yankee fan?
31 years

How did you become a Yankee fan?
Big brother is a Red Sox fan. The rivalry goes all the way down to the DNA.

Favorite Yankee Moment(s):
Jeter vs. Oakland: ‘The play,’ and Aaron Boone vs. the Red Sox

[‘The play’ refers to the 2001 playoffs between the Yankees and the Oakland A’s: Late in Game 4 of the series, New York was clinging to a one-run lead when Oakland looked sure to tie the game on a two-out hit with a man on base. As the runner raced towards home, the throw from the outfield drifted and bounced toward the dugout. But Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter came out of nowhere, grabbed the ball, and made a backhanded flip to the catcher, who tagged the runner out to preserve the lead/victory in the game. Almost all baseball professionals have agreed Jeter had no reason whatsoever to be near the play, except through pure instinct.]

Worst Yankee Moment(s):
The second they signed Jeff Weaver

[Pitcher Weaver was acquired by the Yankees mid-season in 2002. A very promising prospect, he let the pressure of New York get to him, and his year and a half with the Yankees was a marked disaster. Given a final chance to redeem himself in last year’s World Series vs. the Florida Marlins, Weaver yet again imploded and gave up a game-winning home run in extra innings; he was traded this offseason to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Albanian vernacular, Weaver is known as ‘The Dream’ Weaver, for the nightmarish quality that imbued his time in New York.]

Favorite Yankee player (in own lifetime):
Donnie Baseball

Most hated Yankee player (with reason why):
Jeff Weaver. He was the Byung-Hyun Kim of the Yankees.

[Kim was the Arizona reliever who surrendered both miracle homeruns in Games 3 and 4 of the 2001 World Series. Much to Yankee fans’ delight, he was traded last year to the Boston Red Sox, and his tribulations against New York continued. Boston fans grew so irate at Kim’s lackluster performance that they took to booing him viciously; Kim responded one night by giving hometowners the finger. Despite all, he remains in a Boston uniform.]

Currently, most loathed opposition player:
Pedro Martinez

What, if anything, would you be willing to trade for another Yankee championship?
The happy hour special at Susie’s (only during the Series’ game, of course)

Steinbrenner: Evil genius or just plain evil?
Just plain genius

More disliked: Mets or Red Sox?
Unfortunately I’d watch the Red Sox over the Mets any day of the week. Keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer.

Favorite sport overall:
To play, basketball. To watch, football. To listen to, baseball.

If on death row, last dinner request:
Two soft BBQ chicken tacos washed down with a 12 pack of Guinness


* * *


Name: John

Age: 27

Profession/Daylight Activities:
Legislative aide for the mayor of New York

Hobbies and/or Addictions:
Darts

Where are you from?
Delmar, N.Y. [A suburb of Albany]

How long have you lived in Albany?
Entire life

How long have you been a Yankee fan?
About seven or eight years

How did you become a Yankee fan?
When the Yankees started bringing old Mets players like Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, and David Cone.

[Strawberry, Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden, and Cone all played for the New York Mets during that team’s glory years in the mid-’80s before signing with the Yankees.]

Favorite Yankee Moment(s):
Giambi’s rain slam

[In 2002, newly acquired slugger Jason Giambi struggled mightily in his first month with the Yankees. His season turned around in May, however, after he hit a game-winning grand slam during a vicious rainstorm in extra innings against the Minnesota Twins.]

Worst Yankee Moment(s):
Single off Rivera in 2001

Favorite Yankee player (in own lifetime):
Donnie Baseball

Most hated Yankee player (with reason why):
Paul O’Neill, biggest crybaby in the world

[Right fielder O’Neill was a key part of the Yankee dynasty during the late ‘90s. A fierce competitor, he displayed his rage after almost every out at the plate, throwing bats, scowling, and generally making his displeasure known. While many thought his temper sparked the team, others felt O’Neill’s outbursts were an unprofessional display, at best. Now retired, the much calmer and surprisingly humorous O’Neill works part-time as a television announcer for the Yankees.]

Currently, most loathed opposition player:
Roger Clemens

What, if anything, would you be willing to trade for another Yankee championship?
[No answer]

Steinbrenner: Evil genius or just plain evil?
Just plain evil

More disliked: Mets or Red Sox?
Red Sox

Favorite sport overall:
Football

If on death row, last dinner request:
Veal parmesan and Mom’s apple pie


* * *


Name: ‘Lazarus’

Age: 24

Profession/Daylight Activities:
Mechanical designer

Hobbies and/or Addictions:
Snowboarding, golf, tennis

Where are you from?
Catskill, N.Y.

How long have you lived in Albany?
Three years

How long have you been a Yankee fan?
Pretty much whole life

How did you become a Yankee fan?
Father and family were Yankee fans.

Favorite Yankee Moment(s):
Jim Abbott’s no-hitter and Game 7 of 2003 playoffs

[On Sept. 4, 1993, Yankee pitcher Abbott threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. Making his accomplishment that much more special was the fact he’d been born without a right hand. The one-handed Abbott pitched for 11 seasons in the major leagues.]

Worst Yankee Moment(s):
Game 7 of 2001 World Series

Favorite Yankee player (in own lifetime):
Mattingly

Most hated Yankee player (with reason why):
Andy Hawkins

Currently, most loathed opposition player:
Mike Piazza

[New York Mets catcher Piazza and Yankee pitcher Clemens got into a notorious feud during the 2000 season. Piazza had had extraordinary success facing Clemens, and Clemens retaliated by beaning Piazza in the head with a pitch. The feud boiled over during the 2000 World Series: Facing Clemens in Game 2, Piazza broke his bat. Clemens picked up a shard and threw it near Piazza. Piazza claimed Clemens was throwing it at him, Clemens said he didn’t see Piazza and was just getting the broken bat out of the way.]

What, if anything, would you be willing to trade for another Yankee championship?
Nothing

Steinbrenner: Evil genius or just plain evil?
Evil genius

More disliked: Mets or Red Sox?
Red Sox

Favorite sport overall:
Football

If on death row, last dinner request:
Tuna steak

biopic

Tobias Seamon recently published the novella The Fair Grounds. More can be found here. More by Tobias Seamon