I can’t help it – I’m a Yankees girl. Growing up in NY when I did, the choices were the Yankees or the Mets. Given that my mom rooted for the Yankees and my dad the Giants; given that the Giants moved out of town the year I was born (along with “da bums” from Brooklyn); given that my dad adored my mom to the ends of the earth – well, it seems like it was a given that we all became Yankees fans. And those boys of summer in their pinstripes still fascinate.
To understand why my mom was a Yankees fan, you need look no further than where she was born and grew up – the Bronx. To understand why my dad became a Yankees fan, you need look no further than my mom. His affinity for the Giants probably came from his living in Harlem until his early teens, not far from where the Giants played ball at the Polo Grounds. Even long after he had moved to the Bronx and met (at age 14) and married (at age 19) my mom, my dad would hop a train from work in Manhattan to catch a Giants game on the occasional summer afternoon. But when the team left New York (followed by my parents leaving the Bronx for the suburbs), he turned his allegiance to the Yankees. (Except for his lifetime love for Willie Mays. Say hey.)
In fact, my father met my mother because of a giant among Giants – Mel Ott. The story goes that my father’s best buddy was someone whom my mom knew very well – this boy was her neighbor in the Bronx apartment building where they both lived. When my father asked his friend to introduce him to my mom (my dad had seen her many times and was smitten), he offered his prize possession as motivation – his Mel Ott baseball card. The friend accepted, made the introduction, and sparks flew.
Back in the ’60s and ’70s, Yankees games were on the car radio whenever my dad was behind the wheel during baseball season, Phil Rizzuto’s voice coming through, bringing the play-by-play to life. (I still get a kick out of people who listen to the radio broadcast of a game while sitting in a ballpark. The late and legendarily great Vin Scully, master of the genre, was renowned for having been in everyone’s ear in Dodger Stadium.)
Often those trips brought us to my mother’s sister’s home for dinner. My aunt was17 years older than my mom. It was such an age difference that when, as a single woman, she would take my mom (then a baby) out in her stroller for a walk, neighbors at first whispered of a scandal – that perhaps my mother was actually my aunt’s daughter being passed off as her sister. (Very Chinatown, the movie, but nope, no cigar.) She was a tiny, lovable character and the biggest Yankees fan I’ve ever known. She and my uncle always had the game on when we got to their apartment and kept it on throughout our visit.
Even as an elderly woman, my aunt always referred to the team as “My Yankees,” never missing a game. In fact, she had her TV on a rolling cart out on her apartment terrace, where she could watch the games while working on her suntan at the same time (baby oil and iodine were still a thing back then).
All of which is to say that I remain a Yankees fan to this day both for sentimental reasons and because the team has always personified the romance of baseball to me. Aaron Judge’s remarkable 62nd homerun last night adds to the extraordinary history of this baseball institution. Remaining a Yankees fan seems to tie me to my roots in ways I never could have imagined as a child. This time of year – which happens to include the end of baseball season – is one in which I always seem to miss my parents more, and the tie to the Yankees is a sweet reminder of them.
So yes, I have always cheered for the Yankees (not as vocally since I’ve been living in LA, but still). This fandom was an especially not-easy task in the late 1970s when, as a student at Tufts, in Boston, I rooted for them in a couple of World Series – this in a town that detested the Bronx Bombers (and still does, Curse of the Bambino and all that), even though the Red Sox weren’t even playing.
If the Yankees were to play the Dodgers in a future World Series (even later this year), where would my loyalties lie, you ask – with my roots or my wings? Hard to say, but a series I’d love to see.
Field of dreams.
©2022 Claudia Grossman