Pinstripe Destiny ’98


For a moment it was pure Hollywood. After game one in the Texas series, before Darryl’s colon was even a blip on the radar screen, the Yankee clubhouse was alive with the kind of buzz that had been missing from the place since game six of the 1996 World Series. As David Wells was holding court in the interview room while wearing an ice pack and a Van Halen hat, a tall, pale guy dressed all in black sat quietly on a chair in front of his locker.

“You’re not David Wells,” said one writer astutely.

The young man smirked beneath his black floppy hat.

“You a friend of his?”

“More of an acquaintance,” said Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, to the still-clueless reporter.

When Boomer returned to his locker, he took his new friend on the clubhouse grand tour. Whom did Mr. Mellon Collie want to meet first? Bernie Williams? Derek Jeter? No. Joe Girardi. Girardi, you see, had played for the Cubs, and Corgan lives and dies with the Cubbies.

“My cover is that I’m scouting the Yankees for the Cubs,” said the starstruck rock star to the subpar catcher.

Then it got really weird.

In walked George Steinbrenner, and Wells, fresh off his near shutout, saw a perfect opportunity to tweak the Boss.

“I want you to meet Billy Corgan. He brings good vibes, doesn’t he? We oughta hook him up with a suite or something.”

George shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, mumbled something politely noncommittal (“Well, yeah, we’ll see”), wondering how he’d explain his ace pitcher’s pal to Kevin Costner, Rupert Murdoch, and the Donald.

“If it was a Yankees-Cubs World Series,” Corgan said as he turned to Mariano Rivera, “It would be like I died and went to heaven.”

Maybe next year. Sammy Sosa and Co. would make a quick October exit, almost as quick as the swaggering schmoozefest vibe would disappear from Yankeeland 18 hours later. At game two it was clear everyone in pinstripes was expecting that the news about Darryl would be bad–very bad. But like the Kremlin, the Yankee PR machine decided to release the bad news at a more politically convenient time–on an off day, after one more win. In the blink of an eye, this storybook season turned into a TV movie of the week. And there’s one thing for certain about a “based on a true story” telepic–you don’t want it to be based on your true story. Some enterprising screenwriter has no doubt already written a treatment (Darryl’s Song?), with only the ending in doubt.

But the Yankees should take care of at least the Cleveland Indian subplot. Not because they’re going to win one for Darryl. Not because they have something to prove after last year. The Yankees will beat the Indians because they have better players. They won more games. They scored more runs. They gave up fewer. Their top of the order is better. Their middle of the order is just as good. Their bottom of the order–at least as long as Shane Spencer can keep channeling The Ghost of Kevin Maas, and Girardi and Luis Sojo remain firmly planted on the bench–may be their secret weapon. In the bullpen, Rivera is every bit Mike Jackson’s equal, and Graeme Lloyd tops Paul Assenmacher because he can speak Australian, mate. And as for the starting pitching–well, where exactly would Cleveland’s probable game-two starter, Dwight Gooden, fit into the Yankees’ plans? Telling jokes to Ramiro Mendoza?

Our prediction? Yankees in six. Corgan scores tickets to a Yanks-Padres World Series, but, sorry man, no luxury box. And with Darryl’s locker still empty, none of it’s quite as important as it was last week.