The thin-skinned Yanks
Those of you who watch Brewers games on Fox Sports may be familiar with "the Door Man," a powerful-looking, dark-haired, mustached guy in baseball gear who goes to every game and sits next to the visitors' dugout. The Door Man earned his nickname heckling visiting teams with his loud voice and showing them the door with a grand sweep of his hand after they struck or popped out. The Fox camera crew often zooms in on the Door Man in the act.
In the final game of the Yankees series, the Door Man was in top form and Sheff as his prime target. Since I've been sitting near the big man for four years now, I can tell you he has a sharp tongue. His words pierce the crowd noise, causing even the most focused players to make eye contact. Even I, a faithful Brewers fan, wince occasionally when I hear the clever insults spewing from Door Man's mouth, but never have I heard him use profanity.
On Sunday, Door Man's primary topic was steroids and how it happened that No. 11 might have accidentally used them. The fans in the rows around him loved it. Late in the game when he razzed Sheff yet again, Rey Sanchez, the Yankees' second baseman, made a rude gesture in Door Man's direction on his way back to the dugout. Soon after that, Sheff's buddy Bernie Williams waved for security and pointed toward the Door Man. The surrounding crowd had seen both the gesture and the wave and expressed their outrage. Witnessing a crack in the armor of the mighty, the rich and the unbeatable Yankees had become a grand spectacle.
In minutes, an usher and a security guard appeared and suggested the Door Man quiet down. Chants of "tattle tale" rippled through the section. Doorman played it cool, as always. Meanwhile, Bernie Williams was on deck and obviously stricken by the "tattle tale" chants. He caught Door Man's eye and nodded, sheepishly acknowledging he was the culprit.
Before the night ended, Bernie redeemed himself. After his at-bat, he turned to the Door Man, put his hand on his chest and mouthed an apology. Instantly, the mood of the crowd transformed. One of their delicious targets had turned into a good guy.
At that moment, Bernie Williams, a man big enough to say he's sorry, became my one and only favorite Yankee.
On Opening Day, the crowd cheered more loudly for Jeff Cirillo than for most of the other players. Before and after Russell Branyan got hurt, Cirillo has filled in nicely, hustling, catching line drives and making clean plays, blowing bubbles the whole time. While nearly impaling himself on railings or doing somersaults into camera pits, he's made sno-cone catches worthy of ESPN highlights. Averaging above .270, he attacks each at-bat eagerly, blowing bubbles the whole time.
Plus, he's right up there on my best-looking player list.
A lost opportunity
One afternoon in 2000, the season Jeff Cirillo had left the Brewers to play for the Rockies, I was late to a game. As I hustled from my car to the stadium, I couldn't help noticing an older couple just ahead of me. The woman was wearing a Jeff Cirillo baseball hat and a Jeff Cirillo uniform shirt. As I drew closer, I noticed an autograph on her clothes. Here, I realized, was a woman with a passion for baseball, and for one player. I just had to talk to her, so I scampered to catch up to them.
When they slowed to chat with me, I noted the couple was elderly but vigorous -- spry, you might say. They told me they'd been coming to Brewers and Braves games all their married life.
Eager to rave about her hero, Jeff Cirillo, the woman boasted how charming and sweet he had been to her at several autograph events. Despite his departure for a new team, she still wrote him notes and cheered for him. When I told her I wanted to interview her for my column on the Brewers' website, she kindly gave me her phone number. I wrote it on the only paper that was handy, my ticket.
I had planned to get a picture of her for this column in full Jeff Cirillo regalia. I just knew the interview would be fun for both of us. But I goofed. I lost that ticket stub.
So, Mrs. Wonderful Jeff Cirillo Fan, this is for you: I'm glad to have the kid we drafted back on our team again, and I'm sure you are, too.