If only I had been a Yankee fan, I might be a millionaire. Or at the very least, a lot richer than I am today.
Pinstripes and Rolfey never quite hit it off.
From the day I got my first glove, my first cap, my first Rawlings baseball, from the day I knew what major league baseball was, I despised the New York Yankees.
I honestly don't know why.
Maybe it was because the Damn Yanks, historically, were just too damn good. They had won more World Series titles than any other major league outfit. Far more than my childhood favorites — the Los Angeles Dodgers with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale in the early 60s, and the St. Louis Cardinals, with Lou Brock, Orlando "Cha Cha" Cepeda and fireballer Bob Gibson in the mid and late 60s.
Those Damn Yankees.
Maybe it was because they were anchored in New York City. Come to think of it, I have never ever been a fan of any sports teams who calls the Big Apple home: the Knicks, Mets, Rangers, Giants, Jets and Yankees. Okay, the Giants and Jets for eons have been based in New Jersey and the Metropolitans are in Flushing, Queens. But you get the picture.
My disdain for the Bronx Bombers may have been their television exposure, not to mention their annoying announcers. WPIX-TV carried Yankee games for decades, including the 1960s-70s, and Yankee announcers were 110-percent home-team totally biased homers. They were repulsive.
Except for the MLB Game of the Week, WOR-TV which carried the Mutts (sorry, Mets) and once in a blue moon a very fuzzy Channel 16 Scranton station that offered up the Phillies, we were stuck watching Yanks on the boob tube.
I'd cringe when I'd hear Yankee announcer Mel Allen and his infamous Ballentine Blast. Yuk. Not because of the Ballentine, it was decent beer, but Mel.
Then there was the Scooter, Phil Rizzuto, a home-team homer if there ever was one, and the other broadcast cohorts: Jerry Coleman, Red Barber, Frank Messer, Bill White and even Whitey Ford - after Whitey traded the mound for the broadcast booth.
Back then baseball trading cards were the rage.
Mowing a neighbor's yards sometimes meant a quarter, sometimes 50 cents. That booty coupled with your weekly 25-cent allowance (if you were good and behaved 70 percent of the previous week) meant bike hikes to Omar Kirtley's Atlantic gas station on Elmira Street.
Omar was a super cool guy, and in addition to ice-cold RC Cola, his goodie inventory included baseball trading cards. A nickel a pack back then, which got you a handful of trading cards and several sticks of fresh, yummy bubblegum.
My cards were kept in Charles Chips cans, canisters so big they didn't fit under our bunk bed — I shared a room my younger bro. So they went in storage, upstairs in a colossal shed that was to be a home my family never finished.
Somewhere along the trading block I acquired a bunch of older cards, dating back to the 1950s. That inventory included Mickey Mantle rookie cards and others from the 1950s, including Yankee stars Don Larsen, Yogi Berra and even Joltin' Joe DiMaggio in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career.
Those cards were stored in a can reserved for Yankees, until the time was right for persecution.
Sometimes I would intentionally and deviously trade for Yankee cards, just to humiliate and mutilate them.
Thunderstorms produced mud puddles, one of my favorite forms of torture. With clothespins pilfered from my mom's laundry basket, Yankee cards were attached to my bike spokes and I'd wheel through puddles again and again, for a muddy fate.
Sometimes in the garbage they went.
Other times, once dried, they were torched with a lighter or matches "borrowed" from my parents' cigarette stash in a ceremonial burial.
Magic markers, permanent markers were a pleasurable de-facing form of torture.
Pointed devil ears for Tom Tresh and Hector Lopez.
Bobby Richardson, Roger Maris, Clete Boyer and Tony Kubek got Frankenstein forehead scars.
It was blackened teeth for Mel Stottlemyre, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, and Marty Feldman-like eyeballs for the likes of Horace Clarke, Al Downing and Elston Howard.
And of course, an even bigger nose for Joe Pepitone.
To some degree, my curse worked. After capturing back-to-back World Series crowns in 1961-62, the Yanks lost the next two years, swept in four games by the Dodgers in 1963 before losing to my beloved Cardinals in a seven-game series in 1964. Take that Yanks!
But they would bounce back and win more, including World Series titles in 1977 and ’78.
But by then my card collecting days were over. I ditched the huge stock I had amassed through neighborhood yard sales, at bargain-basement prices.
How much my hatred for the Yankees cost me in the lucrative card market, I'll never know.
The torture inflicted, however, was worth every penny.
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