Special to Page 2
The Yankees are slumping and Boston is surging, and suddenly it looks as if we might have a September in the AL East, after all. In fact, Page 2 recently had one of those psychic visions -- we're fine now; just a little sore around the temples, thanks for askin' -- and can state with confidence that the Sox will catch the Yanks at the end of the season and the teams will be forced to meet in a one-game playoff to determine the division champion.
Pretty exciting, huh?
You don't know the half of it. We've seen it all. The game started harmlessly enough, but . . . Oh! The conclusion!
Here, using our fabulous LegoVision technology, we'll show you exactly what will happen. It's our exclusive Division Playoff Pre-enactment, Part One. Tune in tomorrow for the dramatic denouement.
We join the game in the ninth inning. Thus far, we've seen a fierce pitcher's duel between Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina. The only run comes in the sixth inning when David Ortiz hits a solo home run. In the top of the ninth, Mussina gets the first two batters out, but then is felled by a freak accident. As Johnny Damon leaves the batters box, a piece of his hair dislodges from his batting helmet, floats gently toward the pitcher's mound and flies into Mussina's mouth!
Mussina chokes violently; but after a quickly-executed Heimlich maneuver by Derek Jeter, "Moose" is fine -- but done for the day. Joe Torre calls in C.J. Nitkowski to face Mark Bellhorn.
Let's cut to the Announcers Booth:
Joe: "Well, Jon, this certainly is a surprise move."
Jon: "That's right, Joe. The Yankees bullpen was exhausted in the last series against Minnesota. Those hard-hitting Twins just ate the Yankees pitchers up. So Joe Torre is forced to use Nitkowski here to get the final out."
Bellhorn works the count to 3-2.
Nitkowski winds up.And here's the pitch!
He swings and misses!
Bellhorn strikes out and we go to bottom of the ninth, Boston leading by one.
Joe: "Wow, Jon, this is sure exciting. Can Boston do it? Can they beat the Yankees? With Anaheim clinching the wild card with a late-season surge, the winner of this game goes to the playoffs; and the loser goes home."
Jon: "I know, Joe. We've said that 6,000 times tonight, but it bears repeating. If the Yankees don't pull it out now, they'll be out of the playoffs for the first time since 1994. And then America just won't care about baseball anymore."
Joe "It's true, Jon. I think I hear the children crying already."
Jon: "Well, the good folks here at Yankee stadium sure aren't crying. As Jason Giambi steps up to bat against Red Sox closer Keith Foulke, the Yankee fans are on their feet. These are the greatest fans in baseball, don't you think, Joe?"
Joe: "I sure do. It must be nice for him to hear this ovation. This has been a tough year for Giambi. He had intestinal parasites, a benign stomach tumor, a respiratory infection, boils, leprosy, and was beset by a plague of locusts. But tonight, he's come back and is ready to play."
Jon: "Here we go."
Foulke is in the set.And the pitch is on the way!
Giambi smashes the ball!
It's going . . . going . . . GONE! A home run! The game is tied!
There are a lot of smiles in the Yankee dugout.YAY!
Kenny Lofton turns to A-Rod.
"Isn't it fun to be a Yankee?" Lofton says."Sure is," says A-Rod. "What are you going to do with your World Series ring?"
"Oh, I don't know . . . "
. . . Hey, what's that?"
"What's wha-OW! I've been hit!"
It's Pedro Martinez in the Boston dugout, and he's throwing at the Yankees!
"Hey, Pedro, you sick bastard! You can't do that!"
"Oh yeah, Kenny Lofton? What're you gonna do about it?"
"I'm gonna come over there, that's what I'm gonna do!"
Pedro picks up another ball.
"Oh yeah? Try this on for size!"
"Oh, I am slain."
Having had enough, Esteban Loaiza gets up and aims at the Boston dugout."How'd you like a taste of your own medicine, Pedro?"
"Bring it, Bee-atch."
Loaiza's pitch heads towards Martinez . . .
. . . and misses.
Loaiza is undeterred. He picks up another ball and aims."Okay, well, how about these apples?"
The ball heads toward Martinez . . .. . . and misses.
"I suck," Loaiza says.
Back on the field, the action continues. Foulke tries to close out the inning, as Hideki Matsui steps to the plate.But as Foulke readies to pitch, Matsui notices someone has wandered on the field!
Who is that?
Time out!Whoever it is, he's walking toward the Boston dugout!
Oh my goodness . . .
. . . it's Don Zimmer!
Don, what are you doing here?
"I have come," Zimmer says, "to settle an old score . . .
"I have been preparing for this moment for a long time . . .
"I remember . . .
"I traveled long and far to visit the great sensei . . ."He is as reclusive as he is wise. But I was not afraid. I had my purpose. I was ready.
"'Sensei,' I said. 'I am Don Zimmer . . .
"'I am here to study with you.'
"'How dare you, Don Zimmer!' the sensei said."'I do not train weaklings. Also, you have an enormous head.'
"'Please, sensei,' I told him. 'I implore you . . .
"'I may look old, but I am fierce like a tiger.'
"'Very well, Don Zimmer,' the sensei said . . ."'If you think you are mighty, let's see how long you last.
"'Don Zimmer. Every day I will ask you to do a flip over this yari, and every day I will raise the yari a little higher . . .
"'The day you fail is the day I send you home.'
"I told the sensei that I accepted his challenge, and on the first day . . ." . . . it was hard, but I cleared the yari.
"On the second, the sensei held it higher. But my purpose was strong. I thought of my enemy . . .
" . . . and I was successful.
"And on the third day, he held it up to his head, and I was afraid. But I closed my eyes. I took a deep breath, and I felt a great stillness inside me, like the sound a feather makes floating in air.""I made the jump, and the sensei agreed to teach me.
"It was very hard at first. We went to fight and he put his hands on my head and threw me to the ground.
"It was all too familiar.
"'Don Zimmer,' the sensei said. 'You are strong, but you are guided by anger . . .'You must instead be guided by love. Love of life!'
"Then the sensei got out a bow and arrow . . .
"'You must dodge my arrows, Don Zimmer,' he said. 'If you do not, you will die.'
"He shot arrow after arrow at me . . ."But I wanted to live. I had to live to confront my enemy. And I did.
"That day, the sensei gave me my first compliment . . .
"'You did well, my grasshopper,' he said.
"'Now, again, fight me Don Zimmer!'"He came at me, ready to put his hands on my head and throw me to the ground . . .
"But I was ready for him!"
"'Sensei! Sensei!' I cried. 'Let me help you up!'"'Are you all right?'
"'Don Zimmer, I am at peace,' he told me. 'You are ready, grasshopper . . . '
"'Go, now, and conquer!'
"My destiny awaits!"I was ready for my revenge.
"Now I am here . . .
"Pedro Martinez, prepare yourself.""Easy, Don!" Pedro says. "It's OK! You're with the Devil Rays now! Don't hurt yourself!"
"Devil Ray THIS!"
Don Zimmer jumps through the air and prepares to execute a flying side kick!"AAAAAAAH!"
But alas, he misses and falls into the dugout . . . which makes sense, because he's so darned old.Ouch.
TO BE CONTINUED ON THURSDAY . . .
Anne Ursu is a novelist living in Minneapolis.