Chien-Ming Wang (above) outduelled Nate Robertson earlier today as the Yankees beat the Tigers, 2-0 in the first game of a twinbill. The Third Baseman was 0-3 and might not have received a candygram, warm hug nor standing ovation from the sparse crowd in attendance. The Village Voice’s Allan Barra, while pointng out that “no athlete in American professional sports has more separating him from the average fan than Alex Rodriguez,” does cite historical precedent for the sort of hysterical abuse A-Rod’s received.
When he came to bat in the first game of the Boston massacre series (in which he hit .333 with no home runs but scored or drove in 10 of the Yankees’ 49 runs), the Red Sox fans let loose with torrents of abuse, prompting Yankee announcer Michael Kay to quip, “That must make A-Rod feel like it’s a home game.” “I’ve never heard anything like it,” says Alex Belth of the Bronx Banter website. “There may have been booing for a Yankee player that was more vicious than this, but not in the last 20 years at least.”
Veteran sportswriter and Lou Gehrig biographer Ray Robinson has heard something like it. “The torrent of boos that Yankee fans inflicted on Mickey Mantle from about 1958 to 1960 was shocking,” recalls Robinson. “What was baffling about it was that Mantle had, by 1959, two Most Valuable Player awards and five World Series rings. I’ll say this: Rodriguez has reacted to the booing with a lot more maturity than Mantle did. Mickey led the league in smashed water coolers and batting helmets.”
Though the booing of Mantle is now largely forgotten, many old-timers recall it as lasting up to the 1961 season, when Roger Maris became the target of fan abuse, and Mantle, almost overnight, was transformed into a hero. It doesn’t look as if there’s any Roger Maris in sight to take the heat off Alex Rodriguez.
Clearly there’s only one thing the Bombers can do to alievite A-Rod’s pain : hire Barry Pepper and let the fans (old ones, at least) pelt him with rocks and garbage. If need be, draft in the half dozen people that rented “Knockaround Guys”.
Carl Pavano has been told not to pitch for two weeks. They might want to advise him against driving, too.