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Tales Of Yankee Power

There they were yesterday. On my TV screen sitting in a golf cart. Looking, I thought, straight at me. Unsmiling. Stoic.

Whitey and Yogi. The enemy. The smug champions of pinstripes who played in what Sox broadcaster Bob Elson labeled, "The Main Arena." I didn't think I'd be affected, lo, these many decades later, but seeing Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra present for yet another of the Yankee Old Timers' Days, my psyche went into mourning. All those heart-breaking, late-innings defeats 55 years ago. They still hurt.

Okay, I'm not normal. But at least give me the benefit of once being an impressionistic teenager who kept hoping against hope that my White Sox - the Sox of Nellie Fox, Billy Pierce, Minnie Minoso, Luis Aparicio and Sherman Lollar - could find a way to beat the Yankees and go to the World Series. It happened once in 1959, and that summer remains one of the finest in memory.

So as I sat in front of my television on Sunday waiting to see if the present-day Sox could take three-of-four from the Pinstripes, my mind wandered back many years ago when Yogi did things like hitting a prodigious home run just before a thunderstorm struck to wash out what would have been a Sox victory.

Years later I saw Yogi sitting at a table at Castelli's, a trattoria in Palm Desert, California, where he golfs during the winter. Sitting at the bar and nursing a few beers, I debated whether to make my presence known. Maybe because he ordered a cappuccino or tiramisu, I had a chance to order another beer. I blocked his path to the exit.

"Hello, Yogi. I just want to say I'm a White Sox fan, and you broke my heart so many times," I said.

His response: "Oh, shit!"

To this day I'm not sure if he was saying, "Get out of my way, Buddy" (most likely), or "I hear this everywhere," or "I sure am sorry about that" (least likely).

So when the White Sox got two in the first off Phil Hughes on Sunday, I was thinking, What a wonderful way to ruin Old Timers' Day. Send Whitey, Yogi and all the rest of those holier-than-thou former Yankees home smarting with a loss to these upstart Sox.

Of course, thanks to Gavin Floyd getting behind just about every hitter and giving up a couple of two-run homers to Eric Chavez and Robinson Cano, the Sox failed in getting victory No. 3 in the four-game set.

If you had asked me on Thursday morning if I'd be pleased with a series split, I would have been delighted. However, after winning the first two games, I, and I'm sure many fans and the team itself, was looking for three-out-of-four.

But I'm not impressed. Just because Colonel Ruppert built a stadium in 1923 to give the Babe an easy shot at the right-field bleachers doesn't mean that the modern-day team had to re-build the House That Ruth Built with the same dimensions. It's 314 feet down the right-field line, and the wall looks to be only about eight feet high. I couldn't tell for certain on TV, but Chavez's two-run homer on Sunday looked to be a routine fly ball that hit off the second-deck balustrade.

The two leading Yankee power hitters, Cano and Curtis Granderson, both left-handed batters, love playing at the Stadium. Cano hit his 20th on Sunday; 13 at Yankee Stadium. Granderson is among the league leaders with 23 home runs. Fourteen have come at home.

I'm not ignorant of the fact that guys like lefties A.J. Pierzynski and Adam Dunn also had the same shot last weekend, and A.J. took advantage by hitting two into the seats in the stirring 14-7 Sox victory on Friday.

So now New York leads the majors with 124 home runs. Terrific. Seventy have come at Yankee Stadium.

Again, as much as I look for defects in the New Yorkers, I have to bow in respect to Derek Jeter, who made a splendid play on Paulie's hard grounder in the first inning to stop Kevin Youkilis from scoring from third. (Thanks to Alex Rios, who followed with a single, Youk got home anyway for the Sox' second and final run.) It was the kind of defensive play that Jeter is famous for. With all of the Hall-of-Famers in Yankee history, Jeter has more than 400 hits more than anyone of 'em. He may be the greatest shortstop ever. I can't believe I just wrote those words.

The other news from Sunday was the end of voting for next week's All-Star Game. Konerko made the American League team behind Prince Fielder, although I'd rather have Paulie given his OBP, SLG, OPS, BA in this comparison.) And Chris Sale is an All-Star because he's one of the elite pitchers in baseball. Adam Dunn? Last season is behind him, and he's producing offense for the Sox while not hurting them when he plays the field. But a guy who's hitting .210 with 27 more strikeouts than anyone in either league does not merit being an All-Star. Go figure.

Meanwhile A.J. Pierzynski has to stomach his unpopularity everywhere except the South Side of Chicago. He's having his finest season, yet three catchers - Joe Mauer, Matt Wieters and Mike Napoli - were selected ahead of him. Napoli is the starter, a .235 hitter with 12 homers and 30 RBI. A.J.'s numbers are .285, 14 and 45. Manager Ron Washington said how sorry he was that A.J. didn't make the team. Gimme a break. It was his choice.

"If he felt that bad he would have put me on the team,'' Pierzynski told reporters, as noted by the Tribune's Phil Rogers. "He had an opportunity to and he didn't do it. Obviously, he can feel as bad as he wants, but he didn't feel that bad."

Maybe Dunn can give him his spot. At least the Sox would still match the Yankees' All-Star total.


Roger Wallenstein is our man on the White Sox beat. He welcomes your comments.

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