Yankees And Cubs Give Great Interleague Theater

If the Yankees/Cubs games from this past weekend at Wrigley Field had been part of a postseason series, the entire series would have been legendary.

Each of the games in the series -- which drew 126,283 fans to the Cubs' venerable ballpark, a record for a three-game series had drama and action; there was a different hero (or villain, depending on your point of view) on each day.

Friday afternoon, journeyman lefthander Doug Davis tied Yankees hitters in knots, giving them just three singles and one run, which scored after he left the game. He got 22 outs and allowed just the three hits. Only one other pitcher has done that to the Yankees this season -- Boston's Josh Beckett, pretty good company for Davis.

On Saturday, in a game that took about twice as long as it does to fly from Chicago to New York, the Cubs came from behind -- rare enough -- to tie the game on a two-run homer by Carlos Pena. It was backup Yankee shortstop Eduardo Nunez, though, playing only due to the injury to Derek Jeter, who plated an insurance run in the ninth inning that the Yankees would wind up needing. Why? Because Reed Johnson of the Cubs, also getting more playing time than expected because of the injury to Marlon Byrd, hit the first home run anyone had hit all year off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera finished up with the artistry that's given him 576 saves in what will give him an eventual stop in Cooperstown, inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Yesterday, ex-Yankee Alfonso Soriano tried to be the hero by homering off his former team and giving the Cubs the largest lead they'd had in the series, 4-1. But former White Sox Nick Swisher gave his dad, 1970s era Cubs catcher Steve Swisher a Father's Day gift with a matching blast off rookie reliever Chris Carpenter (no relation to the Cardinals starter of the same name) and the Yankees took the game and series with a performance that cried out to the Cubs and their fans, "Look. This is how it's done."

Many of the three sellout crowds at Wrigley Field were wearing Yankee pinstripe jerseys, navy blue T-shirts with Yankee names present (Rivera, Jeter, Rodriguez, Teixeira) and past (Ruth, Mantle) on the back and shirts with representations of the 27 World Series rings on them. They walked around not with haughty attitudes, but friendly and knowledgeable discussion of their team and baseball. Inside the park, chants of "Let's go Yankees" were heard loudly at all three games and some of them even attempted the chanting of the Yankee lineup that's done in the Bronx when the Yankees come onto the field. Left fielder Brett Gardner and right fielder Swisher acknowledged them with a wave of their glove, but when they attempted to get first baseman Mark Teixeira's attention from the left field bleachers, nearly 400 feet away, the chant wasn't heard, and so stopped. These fans represent New York well -- though not all of them traveled in for the series; many Yankee-garbed fans were seen walking down the residential blocks near Wrigley Field after the games, presumably back to their own homes or apartments; their jobs likely relocated them to Chicago, but their baseball loyalties remain with New York.

Some baseball fans pronounce themselves bored with interleague play. Those fans needed to be at Wrigley Field this past weekend for entertaining baseball and great theater. And someday, perhaps the Cubs will learn the lessons the Yankees taught. Many baseball fans outside of New York call the Yankees the "Evil Empire". One Yankees fan I saw wore that slogan on a T-shirt as a badge of honor. "Evil" has won 27 World Championships. Most teams' fans would take that... as a Cubs fan, I know I'd settle for just one.

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