The Dog Days of August and Baseball’s Greatest Rivalry
August 10, 2010
Richard J. Garfunkel
The “Dog Days” of August were in full fury yesterday in the Bronx, as another chapter of the annual renewal of the century old rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox again took place at the Yankee Stadium. Times have changed, but the rivalry that started in 1903 when the Yankees were know as the Highlanders and the Red Sox were known as the Americans, still has emotional fervor. Since those early days of the 20th century, when the Red Sox were the best team in the newly formed American League, (the National League, known forever as the Senior Circuit, goes back to 1876) there has been heighten interest between these rival cities and their population. Over the generations the two teams have played over 2000 times and the Yankees hold the edge 1123 to 937 with 14 tie games.
August 9th, started like any other summer day, but during this season of record heat, this Monday seemed hotter and more humid then ever. The Yankees, who have been sitting tenuously on top of the very competitive American League East, were hosting their age-old rival rivals from Boston in 4th game of an unusual four game series which was scheduled to end on a Monday. I am sure this has happened before, but according to my memory, this scheduling was very rare. Most series end on Sunday!
This summer has been very hot all over the world. There are forest fires in Russia, which threaten hundreds of thousands of people, their wheat production and over 700 people have recently died because of air pollution exacerbated by these fires that rage though out their countryside. Since Roman times, the period between July 24 and August 24th has been known as the “Dog Days.” The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the “Dog Star” because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius is also the brightest star in the heavens besides the Sun. The term “Dog Days” was used earlier by the Greeks. The Romans sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the “Dog Days” to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.
Dog Days” were popularly believed to be an evil time “when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers and quite often hysterics.” Even yesterday, a flight attendant on Jet Blue became enraged at an unruly passenger, and after the plane stopped taxiing, lost his cool, cursed the offending passenger and after grabbing a beer or two, engaged the escape slide and left the plane.
With all this background, my good friend Michael Shapiro asked me if I wanted to go to Yankee Stadium to see the final game of this series with his son Ben. I said that I was game, and he bought two tickets on Stub Hub. For, all of you out-of-towners, there is now a Yankee Stadium stop for the Metro North commuter trains. I had taken the one from Tarrytown, which is located on the Hudson Line, earlier in the season.
This is a direct ride to the Stadium, but the Harlem Line, which runs through Scarsdale, where the Shapiros live, goes first to 125th Street in Manhattan, where one must exit and wait for a northbound train.
It promised to be a hot and humid day, and it was. By the time I reached Ben’s house in Scarsdale, at 12 noon, both the temperature and humidity were aggressively moving northward to 92 F and a humidity approaching 75%. Ben, who is approaching 16, and I, have been to a number of events over the past few years, and we have had our own adventures on the tennis courts. He had developed into a very good tennis player, and recently won the silver medal and the NY State Empire games, and was part of the gold-medal winning team from the Lower Hudson Valley. Besides that we are both rabid Yankee fans and for his age, he is quite knowledgeable about the Bronx Bombers. Our only real big disagreement is over the Yankees incredibly high paid 3rd baseman Alex Rodriquez. I see him as an over-paid “steroid” star who, without the “juice,” would have been probably a very good player, but not an “all-time” great! Ben seems to discount my concerns and loves his “all-time” numbers!
By the way, it cost $16 for a regular round trip ticket to the Stadium and $10 for a senior citizen like me. Personally, in retrospect, I am sorry that I didn’t drive. I was a bit concerned about hitting the rush hour, but for sure, the cost for us both would have been about the same or lower, and the trip down would have been much quicker. But, the past is prologue and we finally got to the Stadium at about 1:10 PM. Immediately Ben , who has a very good appetite, headed directly to Lobel’s, which sells only steak sandwiches, an is located on the main level, and up the left field line. Ben got on one of those Disney World style lines, and waited an extra twenty minutes until their stoves got back on line, and eventually got served. Those juicy sandwiches cost $15, so I hope he enjoyed it. I settled for a hot dog and my own bottle of water.
Meanwhile back to the game. We had great seats in the upper deck, Section 419, seats 5 and 6 and we could overlook directly on home plate. Thankfully we were sheltered under the roof and not directly in the sun light like the poor folks who had seats along the 3rd base side extending up through the leftfield foul pole. I am sure that those unfortunate souls were thoroughly baked by the end of the game.
The game was much more important for the 3rd place injury plagued Red Sox, who had already lost two out of the first three games. If they lost this game, with their best pitcher on the mound, they would be eight games out of first place, and possibly the chance of making the playoffs would be in jeopardy. Therefore it was a bit less critical for the Yankees, who are healthy and in first place.
The game started at 2:05 PM and by the time Ben got to his 2nd hot dog, the Red Sox led 2-0, and most of the 49, 476 fans had settled into their seats. The new Yankee Stadium holds 50,287, (a lot less than both the original Yankee Stadium, the “House that Ruth Built,” that is of course Babe Ruth, which once held 83,000+ in a pre WWII game against the same Red Sox and the re-built Yankee Stadium which held about 57,000 souls) and most of the empty seats are located in the high rent district, where they retail for an astounding $1250. So basically, all four of these “rivalry” games were “sellouts.”
The Yankees, and their young pitching star, Phil Hughes, got behind in the 2nd inning, and the score, 2-0, remained the same until late in the game. The Yankees loaded the bases in the 7th inning with no one out, and were retired without a “loud foul ball” as Red Sox pitchers struck out the last three batters. In the eighth inning, Mark Teixera led off with a tremendous homerun, but there was more frustration, as again, the Bronx Bombers had men on the bases, but could not get a clutch hit to drive the tying run. All in all, eleven Yankees went down by strikes and after 3 hours and 33 minutes it mercifully ended. There was disappointment, but as it was said in Brooklyn many times, “wait ‘til tomorrow (next year).” The Yankees are headed off to Texas and there will be another game with the Rangers today. In a few days, with a victory here and there, the pain of a tough 2-0 loss will be forgotten and new challenges will have to be met.
Ben and I headed for the Metro North station with thousands of others. We got packed into a southbound train to 125th Street, transferred to a northbound track and luckily caught a direct train to Scarsdale. We reached Scarsdale at 6:45 PM, walked to his house, met my wife Linda, and his parents, Michael and Marci, who were sitting on their deck, and we were quickly off to dinner at City Limits in White Plains. It was a long, hot seven hour effort, but again another great and memorable experience.