The Joshua Tree was, of course, packed, and with the feeling that we would be babysat, not welcomed, in the crowd, decided to take in the game at Mike's. There we found a well-lit room full of happy Red Sox fans, a nice large-screen TV with good sound, decent food and beer, and Spike.
Spike is a Yankees fan. He was the only one in the place. He sat at a window booth, his Yankees cap on proudly, though he'd taken off his Yankees jersey and instead wore a Fubu jacket. I think his real name is Maurice, judging from the comments of the crowd. He's also, curiously enough, from Medford. It was the bottom of the fourth when we sat down, the Sox leading 2 to nothing, and Spike was loudly proclaiming that Curt Schilling was "a joke" and that he "wouldn't last the inning!"
"You've been saying that since the first," a woman at the table next to us laughed. Curt would go on to pitch seven innings despite his bum ankle (blood showing through his sock, reminiscent of Roy Hobbes) and did an incredible job. Even so, Spike kept predicting every inning that Schilling was on his way out. The Red Sox faithful just kept laughing, glad that someone else had to display the hopeful optimism for once.
Spike took as well as he gave, and the jocular rivalry between him and the restaurant made for great theater. He'd apparently been watching the entire series at Mike's, so the regulars had gotten to know him. He'd made bets with a few and, at one point, was given a slice of pizza from a fellow diner, who said "I figured you needed to eat a slice of humble pie, and this was the best I could do." In return, he prayed for "no game seven!" and gave a big smile and thumbs-up through the window to any passersby who showed disapproval at his choice of headgear.
This was how baseball-watching should be. There was a rivalry, sure, but it wasn't ugly. It was good-natured and everybody hanging out was just having fun with it. Sure, the Sox fans had a lot more riding on the game, and one young lady in the back would gasp and yelp with every strike Schilling sent over the plate. She cheered for Manny, who was her man, of course, but at one point decided that Bronson Arroyo was cute, too, "but don't tell Manny." Of course, by the time Arroyo came up to the mound, the youngster had such a pained look on his face that it looked like someone had just hit him in the gut. He was wincing for Schilling.
"C'mon, you guys!" Spike said to Torre and company. "I don't wanna be here tomorrow!"
"Oh, you'll be here tomorrow," a fellow diner said. "And you're gonna be sitting right there, in that booth, with a Sox jersey on. Do you want Varitek, Millar, or Mirabelli?"
I don't need to tell you the outcome of the game. If you were anywhere near Eastern Massachusetts you would have heard the celebratory car horns. Spike's defining moment, however, came during that moment in the 8th we're now calling the "A-Rod Incident" or "A-Hole Incident" or whatever (you know how vindictive wronged sports fans can be.)
The Yankees had begun a comeback, scoring a run in the 7th and another in the 8th. Alex Rodriguez, who could've been on the Sox had a deal been worked out, hit a bloopy grounder which was scooped up by Arroyo. As Arroyo ran to tag A-Rod out while Doug Mientkiewicz stood firm on first, A-Rod's hand flew up and "accidentally on purpose" knocked Arroyo's glove down, sending the ball flying (as well as the glove.) Even with this shameful display of blatant interference, and in spite of the fact that A-Rod not only ran off the baseline but didn't even touch the goddamned base, he was called safe while Derek Jeter scored.
The restaurant flew into an uproar. As one, we stood up, pointed at the screen, and roared our primal howls of disapproval and disbelief. We watched numerous replays from numerous angles, pointing and howling with every slow-motion karate chop. And Spike stood up too.
Of course, he'd been crying foul with every call the umpires had made all night, claiming "the fix was in" and "guess Steinbrenner couldn't pay them off enough tonight." An odd character, that Spike. But with this call, he stood with the Red Sox fans in a true, unanimous display of fair play and respect.
"I'm a Yankees fan through and through," he said, "and even I could see he's out! There's no question about it. He didn't even touch the bag. He's out. That was a bad call. Totally out. They should reverse the call."
And reverse the call they eventually did, declaring A-Rod out and placing Jeter back on base (taking back the run) but not before the Yankees fans retaliated with a barrage of baseballs. The NYC riot police would eventually show up in full uniform and get great baseline views with detail pay, but the damage had been done. The wind had been taken out of New York's sails, and as Jason Varitek caught Sheffield's pop foul to finish off the inning, Spike slumped back in his booth in ignominious defeat. He wrapped his Yankees jersey around his head, he crossed his fingers in front, and he nervously bit his fingers, trying to find some kind of response to the mounting victory cries of the opposing team's fans.
"A-Rod was totally safe," he finally declared.