CLEVELAND — Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and ... chop sticks?
When the storied New York Yankees come to town, they bring quite a following.
There were 525 media members assigned to Thursday evening’s American League Division Series opener between the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field. Bobby DiBiasio, vice president, public relations for the Indians, said that number is about 100 more than normal but about half of would be on hand for a World Series game.
Many in the media were Asian reporters, covering Hideki Matsui and pitcher Chien-Ming Wang.
“It’s a direct result of the Pacific Ring media,” DiBiasio said about the high number of reporters.
There was the usual menu for the media, including boxed lunches, hot dogs, chips, popcorn and peanuts. A couple of Asian reporters were in the media room dining on rice, vegetables and some sort of fish with their chop sticks.
“They found that food on their own,” DiBiasio said with a laugh.
With the advent of computers and cell phones, covering games has become a lot easier over the years. Norwalk resident Mary Stewart, a former employee of the Cleveland News, remembers when all you had was a notebook and a pencil.
She watched her beloved Indians on the television Thursday night, but shared her memories.
“The most exciting game I ever saw was in the old Cleveland Stadium on Sept. 8, 1948,” Steward said. “Shortstop Lou Boudreau was not in the game, but was nursing a sore ankle, with his foot in a bucket of ice.
“In the seventh inning the Yankees were ahead by two runs, and the pitcher was Joe Page, the best reliever in baseball that year. But Boudreau was also the manager. When he (Boudreau) put himself in as a pinch hitter, the fans were screaming. He got a single, and drove in two runs to tie the score. It was a double header and we won both games. Just a couple of weeks earlier he had given the fans another thrill when he stole home to beat the Red Sox, although he was considered a slow runner.
“That year we beat the Boston Red Sox for the American League title and the Boston Braves for the World Series. I was working in the city room of the old Cleveland News and got to cover one game. All of us attended as many games as possible. It was also the year that I bought a little Roadster, parked it in the big parking lot at the stadium, and after the game couldn’t find it until nearly all of the other cars had left.”
This is Cleveland’s first playoff appearance 2001. The team’s success, coupled with the Cavaliers’ appearance this summer in the NBA Finals and the Browns’ 2-2 start, has downtown hopping.
“All three teams going good is just terrific,” DiBiasio said. “People have a little lighter bounce to their step when all three teams are doing well. For the fans, they absolutely feed off the success of all three teams.”
DiBiasio, who is his 29th year in baseball — 28 with the Tribe — said there is nothing like October baseball, And, he added, winning sure makes the job a whole lot easier.
“Every year is a different challenge ... it never, ever gets boring.”
* * *
The Indians rolled to an easy 12-3 victory, but it sure didn’t start out well for the home team. Johnny Damon, leading off for the Yankees, took C.C. Sabathia deep down the right-field line for a home run. Initially, right-field umpire Jim Wolf emphatically signaled foul ball, but Yankee Manager Joe Torre argued and the six umpires met in the middle of the field. Wolf’s call was overturned.
Everybody in the press box waited for a television replay, but it was inconclusive. In fact, the coverage was horrible. We got a better look from 500 feet away than we did with the replay.
Half of the media was seated in the right-field stands, right about were the ball landed. A check there confirmed it was the right call.
Speaking of the auxiliary press box, reserved mostly for the television and radio reporters, media members sat right next to the paying customers and you got a real feel for the game. In fact, the area at times resembled a frat party minus the keg of beer. They say there is no cheering in the press box, but I didn’t see anybody complaining as the high-fives were flying during a five-run fifth inning.
* * *
Today’s first pitch is slated for 5:07 p.m. and fans are encouraged to arrive early. Gates will open at 3. Fans are invited to a “Tribe Pride Party” as all away playoff games will be shown on the big screen at Jacobs Field. There are two options — free tickets in the lower seating bowl or special “Ultimate Sports Bar Experience” in the club seats. The $25 tickets feature unlimited food, including pizza, wings, nachos, hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, non-alcoholic beverages and access to the private full-service Club Lounge bar.
The Indians are slated to play in New York at 6:30 p.m. Sunday and 6:07 p.m. Monday (if necessary). Visit indians.com for full details.