Friday, July 5, 2013

Fourth of July Numerology

In addition to it being Independence Day, yesterday was also the thirtieth anniversary of Yankees’ pitcher Dave Righetti’s no-hitter against the reviled Boston Red Sox. Admittedly, for Yankee fans, that must have been a moment to savor. But since I loathed that haughty franchise from the South Bronx with its bombastic owner, I hardly savored Righetti’s accomplishment. In fact, I did my best to not even acknowledge it.

Except for an ESPN retrospective, I would not have remembered this event occurred on the Fourth of July. Nevertheless, I recalled being at home in the Bronx and watching an afternoon baseball game that very day. I was nineteen years old and tuned into the cross-town rival Mets on the TV in my bedroom. Meanwhile, my father, a Yankee fan extraordinaire since the Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio days, watched his favorite team in the family’s living room. My beloved Mets weren’t very doing well in July 1983. In fact, their manager at the opening of the season, George Bamberger, had abruptly retired, literally fearing for his health and well-being. Big Frank Howard, a team coach, took over on an interim basis. Despite their not-too-impressive 30-50 record on July 4, 1983, I remained ever-loyal to my team. 

When Righetti reached the latter innings with his no-hitter still in tact, my father alerted his Met fan son on multiple occasions of what was transpiring at Yankee Stadium, approximately three-and-a-half miles away from where we called home. Even though I was still officially a teenager, our Mets versus Yankees rivalry had, what seemed to me at least, a very long and contentious history. Granted, in 1983, the Mets were a dreadfully bad team and had been for several years. During that unhappy time to be a Met fan, the Yankees experienced a few glorious seasons. But despite the Mets’ recent history, the pendulum was slowly but surely swinging the other way. I felt it. Only weeks before the Mets had acquired Keith Hernandez and the team had lots of hot prospects. What really mattered, though, was that my anti-Yankees’ bona fides were solid. So, I wasn’t about to turn the channel on my bedroom TV to watch the Yankees’ game or, God forbid, join my father in the living room, which, come the ninth inning, he really expected me—a devoted baseball fan like him—to do. How could I possibly bypass sports history in the making? I could somehow, and he became enraged at my obstinacy.

In retrospect, I probably should have watched the top of the ninth inning of the Yankees versus Red Sox game on that Fourth of July three decades ago. My father would have definitely watched the flip side and rooted against any Mets' pitcher with unrestrained abandon. But I was different. One should never underestimate a passionate sports rivalry between father and son. Ours began when I was just eight years old. And while it had its ups and downs, victories and defeats, it was always intense.

The final score in Righetti's no-hitter was 4-0. And thanks to the Internet and its treasure trove of easily retrieved information, I discovered the Mets lost to the Phillies at Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia by the very same score that day. Fourth of July numerology meets a father and son battle of wills. It seems like only yesterday, but also a very, very long time ago.

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