What do a jock strap and a foul ball all have in common? Usually nothing. But today’s your lucky day.
After being heckled relentlessly for much of a May 11 game against the Dodgers, Cincinnati’s Ken Griffey Jr. gave his nemesis in the seats a parting gift: an extra-large jock strap. Though the two sparred verbally a couple times, it showed some aplomb on Griffey’s part and reminded me of a time when some crazy kids (who shall rename nameless) heckled Griffey in 1994 while he was playing for the Seattle Mariners. At the time, Grif was still a youngster, yet unfettered by the poor publicity that would come in a few years and his now infamous string of injuries. But these were the bad ol’ days for him. As well for the kids in the stands, who probably only paid $5 for the privilege of being within eyeshot of a future Hall of Famer. From a few seats behind him in a virtually empty section in the now imploded Kingdome, these four fans kept thumbing their noses at him. It was pretty clean stuff and done mostly out of boredom, I recall thinking. They just wanted to get the superstar centerfielder’s attention. And it worked. A couple innings later Griffey was talking to his outfielder buddies before the inning started. Griffey glanced back a few times at the cheerful, somewhat inebriated, nose-thumbing, co-ed fans. He was clearly slightly amused. As his teammates dispersed to their positions, Griffey turned to the section, put his glove up to his face and thumbed his nose back at ‘em from behind his glove. Priceless. The moral of the story? Griffey’s good nature will always win the upper hand. And that memory is a wonderful souvenir.
Ricky Henderson, another future Hall of Famer, is good for a souvenir, too. Sort of. He was cheering for his Mets when he snagged a foul ball during a game against the Giants in San Francisco. A young fan asked him for the ball. Everyone asked him for the ball. But he declined, saying that he’s always wanted to catch a foul ball as a fan and adding that the ball is going on a shelf at home. As for the youngster? Henderson signed another ball that the kid had. Who knows? Perhaps fans will once again be catching foul tips off of Henderson’s bat. That’s right, the 48-year-old hasn’t retired, though is last major league game was in 2003, while playing for the Dodgers. Meanwhile, he’s a special coach for the Mets and hoping for a 2008 Spring Training invite. Incidentally, the Mets occasional first baseman, Julio Franco, is four months older than Ricky. That just has got to kill him. Not that he’s catty about it – he just really wants to play. Unlike Roger Clemens, who clearly wants to play for a playoff contender, Ricky isn’t necessarily pining for a third World Series ring… but it would be a fine souvenir.
photo credit: flicker.com
Yes, it’s not like you saw it here first. But we’d be awfully neglect if we neglected to note that 44-year-old Roger Clemens picked the Yankees as the team he is going to rescue this year. On the surface, it may seem astounding that the Red Sox let him go to their rivals but, we suppose, Boston felt comfy with a double-digit lead in the AL East and the knowledge that the Yankees would need to play something like .600 baseball for the rest of the season to have a chance of seeing October. So, the Red Sox decided to save the plane fare. After all, a sure first ballot Hall of Famer (whenever he finally decides to retire) doesn’t come cheap. The Yankees shelled out a cool prorated $28M for the favor. The favor is supposed to start in Toronto on May 28th. You know what? I’m finding myself pulling for the guy. This is likely because I am faced with turning 40 this fall and think we in our 4th decade should band together. Then again, he could choke on a calzone, too and I probably wouldn’t bat an eye. Ah, the Boston/Yankee rivalry dies hard, doesn’t it?
Yet, I am captivated with the Yankees, it seems. So, allow me to wonder about good ol’ Bernie Williams. The guy was pushed from the team with an invitation to join one of the club’s minor league teams. Not that he didn’t see the writing on the wall when the team signed Johnny Damon to his position after the 2005 season. Williams optimistically says he’s staying in shape and will “be back” in the majors. Meanwhile, the ex-centerfielder busied himself last week addressing the graduating class for Iona University in Madison Square Garden and collecting an honorary degree for his work with homeless people.
Unfortunately for Williams, no team seems primed to take the Bernie Bait. Not that it would matter — it’s no secret that the good natured Williams wants back in pinstripes. He was a Bronx Bomber lifer after being signed as a 16-year-old punk in Puerto Rico. And he could be playing this season, but for him declining offers to play with other teams. But who knows? His Yankees may be looking for a new designated hitter after current DH, Jason Giambi, apologized for using steroids (“that stuff”) and suggested that Hank Aaron Huntin’ Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants should do the same. And everyone else involved in the scandal, for that matter, including Bud Selig. For his candor, Giambi, currently a .272 hitter with six home runs and 34 RBI, may be tossed into the cold. The New York Post suggests that Steinbrenner would gladly release Giambi from his contract. In fact, the paper implies that the ballclub would simply love to have a good reason to do so and it’d be a legal no-brainer if it’s found that Giambi used steroids after he joined the Yankees in 2001. So, Bernie, a career .297 hitter, may be a good fit.
photo credit: www.BernieWilliams.com