By KIRBY ARNOLD
NEW YORK – Thirty minutes before game time, public address announcer Bob Sheppard politely welcomes fans to the ballpark and then, in his silky tone of voice, issues the following warning:
“Please respect your fellow fan and refrain from any unruly behavior.”
And with that, all hell breaks loose at Yankee Stadium.
More than 54,000 fans attended Tuesday night’s series opener, nearly every one of them with an attitude. None, however, behaved like those in the outfield seats who proudly call themselves “bleacher creatures,” with emphasis on “creatures.”
It’s an entirely different world in those seats, where the fans feel it’s their responsibility to harass anyone in a visiting uniform.
“I learned things about my family. I learned things about myself,” center fielder Mike Cameron said before Wednesday’s game.
Mothers don’t cover their children’s ears because they’re too busy making gestures.
“I turned around and there were about 15 fingers that came flying back at me,” he said.
They weren’t saying “You’re No. 1,” either.
M’s shortstop Alex Rodriguez didn’t look at Wednesday’s loss as one that got away, despite the fact the Mariners led 1-0 through seven innings.
“A 1-0 lead is not a huge lead against the Yankees,” he said. “If you’re talking a 5-0 lead and they come back on you, then yeah, it stings.”
Cameron said plate umpire Angel Hernandez’s strike zone was especially wide, a contributing factor to the Mariners’ offensive struggle.
“His zone was a little wide. You could tell that early,” said Cameron, who had two of the Mariners’ nine strikeouts.
“You can’t just sit there and take strike three all the time. El Duque (Yankees pitcher Orlando Hernandez) took advantage of it, and (M’s starter) John Halama took advantage of it.”
If not for a lightning-quick recovery, Cameron could have made the biggest Yankee Stadium pratfall since Scott Brosius was caught flat-footed and picked off first base just moments earlier in the third inning.
Chuck Knoblauch lifted a high fly to deep center field and Cameron drifted back before settling under the ball. He closed his glove a split second too soon, and the ball rolled off the top of the webbing and down Cameron’s arm before he smothered it for the out.
In the dugout after the inning, Rickey Henderson chided Cameron, then grabbed the glove and tightened the laces.
If Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki looked like a nervous wreck in the ninth inning Tuesday as he protected a two-run lead, there’s a reason.
“I was very nervous and the atmosphere was just great,” Sasaki said.
Sasaki continually stepped off the rubber, walked to the back of the mound, adjusted his hat and tugged at his jersey.
Pitching coach Bryan Price certainly noticed, although he didn’t think Sasaki was nervous.
“I didn’t think he was uptight,” Price said. “Give the Yankees credit. Bernie Williams worked him hard before he got a hit with two strikes, and Tino (Martinez) did the same thing. Kaz threw 27 pitches in that inning and only seven were balls.”
But what about all the fidgeting between pitches?
“Kaz is very good at telling himself, ‘I’m too amped up, so I’ll back off and find an inner peace. And then I’ll get back after it,’” Price said.
The New York newspapers, filled only a day earlier with references to a Mets-Yankees subway World Series, weren’t nearly so positive about the hometown nine on Wednesday.
After the Mariners’ 2-0 victory in Game 1 Tuesday, when the M’s struck out 13 Yankees, the headline on the front cover of the New York Post read “Whiffle Ball.”
And on the back page, the headline was, “Oh No.”
Injured catcher Tom Lampkin made the trip with the Mariners and has continued to strengthen his surgically repaired right elbow. He played catch for eight minutes Wednesday with trainer Rick Griffin, throwing from about 70 feet.
“The first couple of days after I started throwing again it felt tight,” Lampkin said. “But now after two or three minutes it loosens up. And then toward the end it felt kind of restricted. They say that’s normal.”
While rehab is foremost on Lampkin’s mind these days, so is one other thing.
He would love to see the Mariners in the World Series against his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals.
“Oh, that would be nice,” he said. “I’d love it. I talked with Mark about it a week ago.”
Mark, as in McGwire, the Cardinals slugger who became best friends with Lampkin when they played together St. Louis two years ago.
For the first time in postseason history, the umpiring crew in New York included two brothers: John and Mark Hirschbeck.
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