The Final Detail Page 46

choice, and football was probably his favorite to watch on TV. Tennis was the game of princes, golf the game of kings. But baseball was magic. Early childhood memories are faint, but almost every boy can recall his first major-league baseball game. He can remember the score, who hit a home run, who pitched. But mostly he remembers his father. The smell of his after-shave is wrapped up in the smells of baseball- the freshly cut grass, the summer air, the hot dogs, the stale popcorn, the spilled beer, the overoiled glove complete with baseball breaking in the pocket. He remembers the visiting team, the way Yaz tossed grounders to warm up Petrocelli at short, the way the hecklers made gentle fun of Frank Howard's TV commercials for Nestle's Quik, the way the game's greats rounded second and slid headfirst into third. You remember your sibling keeping stats, studying the lineups the way rabbinical scholars study the Talmud, baseball cards gripped in your hand, the ease and pace of a slow summer afternoon, Mom spending more time sunning herself than watching the action. You remember Dad buying you a pennant of the visiting team and later hanging it on your wall in a ceremony equal to the Celtics raising a banner in the old Boston Garden. You remember the way the players in the bullpen looked so relaxed, big wads of chew distorting their cheeks. You remember your healthy, respectful hate for the visiting team's superstars, the pure joy of going on Bat Day and treasuring that piece of wood as though it'd come straight from Honus Wagner's locker.

Show me a boy who didn't dream of being a big leaguer before age seven, before Training League or whatever slowly began to thin the herd in one of life's earliest lessons that the world can and will disappoint you. Show me a boy who doesn't remember wearing his Little League cap to school when the teachers would allow it, keeping it pitched high with a favorite baseball card tucked inside, wearing it to the dinner table, sleeping with it on the night table next to his bed. Show me a boy who doesn't remember playing catch with his father on the weekends or, better, on those precious summer nights when Dad would rush home from his job, shake off his work clothes, put on a T-shirt that was always a little too small, grab a mitt, and head into the backyard before the final rays faded away. Show me a boy who didn't stare in awe at how far his father could hit or throw a baseball-no matter how bad an athlete his father was, no matter how spastic or what have you-and for that shining moment Dad was transformed into a man of unimaginable ability and strength.

Only baseball had that magic.

The new majority owner of the New York Yankees was Sophie Mayor. She and her husband, Gary, had shocked the baseball world by buying the team from the longtime unpopular owner Vincent Riverton less than a year ago. Most fans had applauded. Vincent Riverton, a publishing mogul, had a love-hate relationship with the public (mostly hate) and the Mayors, a techno-nouveau-riche pair who had found their fortune through computer software, promised a more hands-off approach. Gary Mayor had grown up in the Bronx and promised a return to the days of the Mick and DiMaggio. The fans were thrilled.

But tragedy struck pretty fast. Two weeks before the deal to buy was finalized, Gary Mayor died of a sudden heart attack. Sophie Mayor, who had always been an equal, if not dominating, partner in the software business, insisted on going ahead with the transaction. She had public support and sympathy, but Gary and his roots had been the rope tethering her to the public. Sophie was a midwest-emer, and with her love of hunting mixed with her background as a math genius, she hit the prenatally suspicious New Yorkers as being something of a kook.

Soon after taking over the helm, Sophie made her son Jared, a man with virtually no baseball experience, co-general manager. The public frowned. She made a quick trade, gutting the Yankee farm system on the chance that Clu Haid still had a good year or two left. The public cried. She had stood firm. She wanted a World Series in the Bronx immediately. Trading for Clu Haid was the way to get it. The public was skeptical.

But Clu pitched amazingly well during his first month with the

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