The New York Yankees. Lord of their realm, with fans who let you know it.
Talking to a Yankee fan is generally an exercise in futility, since they are programmed to utter two basic phrases:
Phrase one: “Twenty-seven rings, baby”, or a something along that vein.
Phrase two: “(Fill in the blank) sucks”. This is where Yankee fans, demonstrating the high levels of intelligence that they garnered at PS 151 or wherever, voice the opinion that everyplace and everyone who is not from New York or a New Yorker or a Yankee fan sucks.
Some variants that these wizards of debate and decorum utter include ‘Boston sucks”, “Philly sucks”, “Texas sucks”, “Mets' fans suck”, "France sucks", "LA sucks", "the NL sucks", and so on and so forth.
And it’s not just the teams that Yankee fans don’t like. They are of the opinion that everyplace and everyone not situated at the confluence of the Hudson and the Atlantic…suck. Just because.
It’s enough to drive ya to drink.
Which, come to think of it, is something that the Yankees have also excelled at through the years.
Yankee boozers may be reacting to the spotlight of the big city. Or perhaps to the myriad of temptations it provides. Perhaps they drink, as do many, to avoid. Hey, given a fan base that could get on the nerves of Mother Teresa, boozing it up may just be a coping mechanism for a long line of Yankee greats.
It starts with the Babe.
Babe Ruth epitomizes baseball. His name recognition goes beyond bounds…sociologists have found primitive tribes of headhunters in New Guinea who can site his home run totals. And the Babe was, in addition to maybe the best baseball player ever, a world class booze hound.
Ruth himself said “I learned early to drink beer, wine and whiskey. And I think I was about five when I first chewed tobacco.” And he kept it up as a player.
Sportswriter H.G. Salsinger noted, “He could eat more, drink more, smoke more, swear more, and enjoy himself more than any contemporary.” Babe was fond of drinking a quart mixture of bourbon whiskey and ginger ale at breakfast, before attacking a porterhouse steak garnished with half-a-dozen fried eggs and potatoes on the side. Yummy.
Ruth actually managed to lose most of a season to his habits. During spring training in 1925, Ruth fell victim to his own indulgences of eating and drinking and was diagnosed with an intestinal abscess. Ruth missed much of the season with stomach surgery and paid a fine from New York manager Miller Huggins for insubordination. He only appeared in 98 games, and the Yankees finished the season at 69-85.
He was the best…but a heck of a boozer. He died in New York aged 53, in 1948.
Later on came the Mick. The pride of Commerce, Oklahoma, was probably the greatest switch hitter ever. He was also a raging alcoholic.
His hard living and boozing as a player were legendary, and he kept it up once he retired. Finally, after being told by a doctor that his liver was so badly damaged that "your next drink could be your last,” he checked into the Betty Ford clinic in 1994.
Alas, it was too late for the Mick. His liver went out, and despite receiving a transplant, he died the next year in Dallas, Texas. Before he went, he told his fans “This is a role model. Don’t be like me.”
One of the Mick’s drinking buddies as a player was Billy Martin.
Martin was the perfect manager for the Yankees for New York in the 70’s.
The city was like an apocalyptic science fiction novel, with the Bronx literally burning down, the crime rate at an all-time high, the city broke, and nut job Son of Sam running around listening to his dog and offing people. During the time, Martin was also leading one of the most dysfunctional clubhouses ever to World Series victories.
Called the “Bronx Zoo,” highlights included various fights, altercations and run-ins, including Martin and Reggie Jackson having to be restrained from a fight in the dugout during a nationally televised game with the BoSox in Boston. But he managed to make them win.
Hired, fired, rehired, fired again, he had a relationship with owner George Steinbrenner that made high school romance seem calm, cool and collected. He ended up managing the team five times.
And boy, could Billy drink. And by all accounts, he was not a nice drunk.
Billy Martin was not a big guy. Because of this, many people thought it was wise to approach him while he was drinking, and attempt to talk baseball. This tactic, often attempted in bars, would frequently lead to somebody getting punched out, somebody being charged with assault, and Billy Martin being fired the next day.
Billy died…drunk…when he and a buddy went out to celebrate after hearing he was going to be hired to coach the Yankees for the sixth time, and the vehicle they were in hit a ditch that jumped out in front of them. Billy Martin…a classic Yankee.
So who does the booze crown pass to with this crop of Yankees?
Jeter? Nope…he’s a noted playboy and man about town whose conquest list would make Tiger blush, but he’s been smart enough to keep it on the down low.
A-Rod? Nah. He’s had his 'roid run-in and marital woes, but is keeping a low profile and snuggling up with Kate Hudson, which should keep him out of trouble.
Manager Joe Girardi? Heck, he’s like the avuncular neighbor down the block. He’s so dang nice even Red Sox fans like him.
Teixeria? The book is still out on if he’s human or some sort of cyborg like Data on Star Trek, but whatever he is, substance abuse is not in the coding.
Which leaves us with Joba the Butt. Joba Chamberlain, the big boy from Nebraska with the 94 mph fastball, whose mom got busted for meth, and who himself got busted for a DWI. Perhaps he can be the next in a long line of Yankee drunks.
He needs to get his game together, but he certainly has the tools to do both...compete effectively and be the next over drinkin', overeatin' Yankee star.
He'd be joining a vaunted legacy.