Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bird Killer!

A memorable game I attended with my friend, Mike, at the Oakland Coliseum. A wild time of heckling the Yankees' Dave Winfield, and also I took home my first home run ball.

This game, May 25, 1984, was the Yanks' first game in Oakland for the season. During an at bat of the detestable Winfield, A's pitcher Steve McCatty threw a high ball, just out of the strike zone. Winfield's plate-crowding stance usually had his head directly on top of the plate. Although the ball was thrown directly at his head, the ball was clearly over the plate. Winfield ate the dirt in his effort to evade the near strike, then charged about 10 feet toward the mound, threatening McCatty. Both benches emptied, the crowd was frenzied, but no fight occurred.

When the Yanks took the field the next inning, a fan in our left field bleacher section stood up and said, "Everybody to right field!", where Winfield was playing, with obvious intentions to mass heckle. Several dozen of us headed out there and began the loudest, most energetic heckling of a visiting player I ever took part in. We hit him with chants so obnoxious and severe that the fans in the box seats several sections away complained to security. We heckled him about his mother, his IQ, his relationship with George Steinbrenner, you name it. He engaged us in return, which was pretty funny, sometimes flipping the bird to us behind his back while waiting on the next pitch. He covered his ears in mock insanity. He laughed and smiled.

But the best part was that, with the previous year's ecnounter in Toronto where he was arrested by Canadian police for accidentally killing a seagull, Canada's national bird, during warm-ups, still fresh in our minds, we had the entire right field bleachers flapping our arms up and down and chanting "Bird killer!, bird killer!, bird killer!" What a sight. "Hey, Winfield, does an American dime work in a Canadian payphone?", alluding to his one phone call in jail. "You're a murderer!" On and on.

We stayed out there the entire game and I'm sure nobody had a voice left the next morning. I also retrieved a home run hit by the Yanks' Oscar Gamble. The ball went under the bleachers, and I was first down the stairs and retrieved it with about a dozen others right behind me. (Box score)

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