Anthrax scores at home in center field

Anthrax members Charlie Benante, left, and Frank Bello, right, are Bronx natives (with Rob Caggiano). Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Asked if he would be watching that night's New York Yankees game at Seattle, Scott Ian says no. "I'm playing with Metallica, then going to bed," grins the Anthrax guitarist.

The adrenaline has peaked. Now, exhaustion is setting in, and the five members of Anthrax look drained. Sept. 14 has been an unforgettable day, albeit a long one. Officially Anthrax Day in the Bronx, less than three hours earlier the hometown band took the stage in center field to kick off the historic Big Four show at Yankee Stadium with Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth.

It's a triumphant homecoming for Anthrax. Formed 30 years ago, they're the only New York band on the bill. For the band's rabid Yankees fans -- Ian, guitarist Rob Caggiano and bassist Frank Bello -- it's the biggest show of their careers. But it's bittersweet for Bello's uncle, Charlie Benante, whose father isn't alive to see him play Yankee Stadium.

Charles Benante, a serious major league prospect and avid Yankees fan, died when the future Anthrax drummer was just 5.

The Life caught up with Bronx natives Benante and Bello less than two hours after their set, right after Anthrax spent an hour signing autographs at the Hard Rock Cafe at Gate 6 of Yankee Stadium.

The Life: Retrace your steps, how you got to Yankee Stadium when you were kids.

Bello: God, growing up in the same house in the Bronx …

The Life: How far were you from Yankee Stadium?

Benante: Twenty minutes.

Bello: Not even that, really. I made it here in 15 minutes [once] for a game. On [Interstate] 87, you go down the Deegan [Major Deegan Expressway], passing Yankee Stadium. Growing up, it's like, yes, you can see the lights on. It's a vibe, all that good stuff.

By the way, I've been to Fenway … with a Yankee jersey on, which I'm very proud of. You need that [rivalry]. I love it. Personally, I think it's a great thing for baseball.

The Life: So, you got in the dugout …

Bello: I got in the dugout. It was big. I tell you what I did: I was going to do it anyway, and maybe risk getting arrested, and this guy came up to me and said hello. He had a suit on, so I knew right away he was [part of the Yankees' organization].

I told him who I was, and he was so nice. I said, just let me take some press pictures -- you know, [in affected voice] I'm going to take some press pictures -- and the guy couldn't have been nicer in the dugout. He said, "Yeah, go ahead, do whatever you want to do."

The Life: Did you get any souvenirs, like dirt from the pitcher's mound or out on the warning track?

Benante: No, they wouldn't let us on the field. We were here on Friday, and they wouldn't let us go on the field then.

Bello: I wanted to slide into third [base], but the security is pretty tight here, pretty rough.

Benante: Which, I can understand.

The Life: So, after all these years [living in the Bronx], even on Anthrax Day, you still can't get on the field at Yankee Stadium. [Laughter]

Bello: Yeah, it is funny. I'll tell you this, man, what I did before -- you know where the stage is? That's center field. So, you go out, and you think of a good shot [to] center field … you can get it lost in the lights. When you look up, you understand how these guys screw up. You don't realize it until you actually do it.

The Life: Charlie, a lot has been made about your dad's connections to baseball and the Yankees.

Benante: [Nods toward Bello] His grandfather.

The Life: It's all in the family.

Bello: Yeah, absolutely.

The Life: He was actually a major league prospect?

Benante: My mom tells me he was looked at. My grandfather, who was an old-school Italian, wanted my dad to follow a trade and pretty much said no.

Bello: He was that good. That's the stories I've heard, also, that he was that good.

The Life: And he was a huge Yankees fan.

Benante: Huge sports fan, in general. My mom says he would watch two TVs, radios going, just to get every bit of the game.

Bello: I definitely have that from him.

The Life: What about the Yankees do you associate most with him?

Benante: Well, he was a huge Yankees fan. A lot of us … you know, I think Rob is the only one, and maybe Scott, that their dads are here today. You know, my nephew -- his brother, Anthony [who also passed away] -- he was a huge Yankee fan, as well.

This is all bittersweet. It's awesome, and then there's the other side to it that's a bit, well, I wish this could have been like that, or that could have been that way.

The Life: When you accomplish something [like playing Yankee Stadium], you just wonder: Do they know that I did it?

Bello: Absolutely. It's really great that you say that.

Benante: My mom is here today, so I'm really happy about that. And, you know, I look at my daughter … she's 5 years old, and that's the age that I was [when his dad died]. I really don't have much of a memory. I have, like, little pieces, and then I live through my sisters and my mom telling me things. But, for the most part, a lot of those memories are lost. So, like I said, it's bittersweet.

Bello: Something like this, as big as this is today, my grandfather, who is Charlie's dad, I just tip my hat: Grandpa, top of the world, baby.

The Life: Were there specific moments during the show when you thought, I did it, Dad. I did it, Grandpa?

Bello: When we went on! When we went on, for me, that's what it was.

Benante: It's weird, you just go through these little moments. But, for the most part, when I was up there playing, I was more focused on that.

The Life: It hasn't really hit you yet, what you just did.

Benante: No. It's not going to hit me for awhile.

The Life: After this, do you at least have a contact, an "in" for Yankees tickets?

Bello: I got some [business] cards. I'm gonna work it. My plight today was to get a connection, and I think I have some.

Benante: I've got more of an in at Wrigley [Field]. [Laughs]

Bello: He lives in Chicago [now].

Benante: Two months ago, he flew out to Chicago, 'cause the Yankees played the Cubs, and that was it, man. It was like, we were on the field -- we met Reggie Jackson that day. And then A-Rod! Remember, A-Rod came over … it was funny, and [Frank] was loving it.

Roger Lotring is an author, freelance writer and radio show host based in Connecticut.