JOE DiMAGGIO REGRETS
IF JOLTIN' JOE COULD
SPEAK TODAY, HE'D SAY:
"Get any of that pie muck
on my silk tie and I'll hit
you with my bat in more than
400 consecutive games!"
Pies in the face? Not in
the days of DiMaggio
By MAURY ALLEN
Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle are spinning in their graves.
The Yankees, winners of 39 pennants and 26 World Championships, have become the pie-in-the-eye team instead of the Bronx Bombers.
Sure they are hitting plenty of home runs and blowing away the opposition in their first season at the new Yankee Stadium but they are celebrating with cream puffs in the face instead of dignity in their deeds.
Every Yankee triumph, especially those last at bat, dramatic finishes, now called by the silly term of walkoff victories, are marked by the splashing of pie in the face of the hero by newly acquired pitcher A. J. Burnett, alias Allan James Burnett of North Little Rock, Arkansas.
He came to the Yankees as an expensive free agent with an 87-76 big league record, an 18 game winning season last year, a 2001 no hitter and a juvenile personality.
He never gets pie-eyed because he is never around at the end of the game as baseball pitchers going six innings are now considered stars.
Burnett sneaks up on the game-winning player, always interviewed on the field, with a pie in one hand and a towel in the other. The reaction is to duck and it is certain before seasons end that a finger will wind up in the players eye.
Imagine the Yankees missing Derek Jeter in the playoffs with an eye injury caused by a floating finger during a pie attack.
Imagine still, a pitcher of little note pushing a pie in the bulbous nose of Babe Ruth, the stoic face of Lou Gehrig, the slick hair of Joe DiMaggio or the blond locks of Mickey Mantle.
DiMaggio set the tone for Yankee dignity in his Hall of Fame career from 1936 through 1951 with time out for World War II service. He never walked on the field without his pressed pinstripes and shined shoes.
DiMaggio took his dignity so seriously he never moved from the clubhouse to the field without a final glance at the floor length clubhouse mirror. The Clipper had to look right or the Clipper wouldnt get on the field before his public. DiMaggio believed in the Billy Crystal edict, It is better to look good than be good.
DiMaggio once had a bruise from sliding on his backside and before pulling up his uniform pants he addressed longtime clubhouse custodian Pete Sheehy. Pete, DiMaggio said, take a look at this thing. Is it turning red?
Yeah, replied the clubhouse guru, its from all those guys kissing your ass.
DiMaggio led the league in vanity as well as dignity. But he did set a tone for the Yankees that has lasted until the most recent years. Jeter and retired Bernie Williams represented the DiMaggio tradition until the present.
Now comes along this childish, fraternity-like conduct instigated by Burnett after every Yankee close game victory. Maybe manager Joe Girardi thought that stuff was amusing while he was a student at Northwestern.
Football icon Vince Lombardi once criticized one of his players for adding a little extra show when he ran into the end zone for a key score. It ruffled Lombardis feathers.
Act like youve been there before, he admonished the player.
The Yankees act like each August victory, especially if it happens over the hated Red Sox (they swept the last four at the Stadium) is a major event worthy of the newsies screaming, Stop the presses. They have to be reminded George Steinbrenner set the tone of this team when he purchased it in 1973. He soon announced that no season was a success unless the Yankees won the final game of the World Series.
Late inning Yankee victories are now accompanied by a show of togetherness at home plate where the hero is mauled by 24 teammates. So far there have not been any reports of broken limbs or concussions as a result of this childish conduct. Just wait.
The Little Leaguers copy all this, of course, and so the next victim will probably be some 12-year-old kid unfortunate enough to win his game with a home run.
I think ball players making fifteen, twenty or twenty five million dollars a year are still entitled to have fun. Sure they like building estates and adding to their auto collections but they deserve a laugh or two after a winning game.
I used to share some of this joy with players over a beer in a hotel bar.
I dont think I could handle the pounding, the chest pumping, the ferocious hugs and certainly the pie in the eye if I happened to write a good story that my boss liked.
I guess Im a little like DiMaggio. A good performance in your profession should be routinely expected instead of overly celebrated.
©2009 by Maury Allen. The Maury Allen caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. This column first posted Aug. 17, 2009.
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