It's just about showtime
Many New York fans toted brooms to Yankee Stadium in hopes of a repeat World Series sweep. AP
CNN/SI.com senior writer John Donovan is on-site at Yankee Stadium at New York. He filed these reports during the run-up to Game 4 of the World Series.
By John Donovan, CNN/SI
ON THE RAMP JUST INSIDE THE PRESS GATE -- Well, whoever that was, he got past me. Or she did.
Now that's impressive security. Must have been a Clinton. Maybe Hillary.
I gotta get inside, grab my seat and have pretzel for dinner.
If anybody sees the mayor, let me know.
Hey, that must be somebody important
OUTSIDE THE STADIUM -- Things are getting frantic. Thousands -- at least -- of people are milling around the stadium looking for a last-minute deal on tickets, just celebrity watching or just trying to be a part of the Yankees experience.
Outside the doors to the Yankees' offices, hundreds of people alternately look for tickets or cheer for actors and ex-ballplayers as they go by.
Reggie Jackson, 22 years after he hit three home runs in a World Series game, starts up a huge chant: "Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie."
Not two minutes later that's followed by "Re-gis, Re-gis, Re-gis" as the talk show hosts slides by. The one guy that gets booed. Jim Gray of NBC, accompanied by a cadre of security people.
It's a veritable smorgasbord of celebs.
The crowd is working cell phones looking for the tickets trying to figure out a way to get in but some are just hanging out.
Still waiting for "Rud-y, Rud-y." You know the mayor.
He might be here, about a two dozen NYPD motorcycles just rolled up. This might be bigger than Guiliani, it might be the Prez. My new friend in front of me, a native New Yorker obviously, says Guiliani usually comes with five.
ON THE FIELD -- You know, they say the media is tough in New York City. What's tough is the amount of media.
Here on the field at Yankee Stadium an hour before the start of Game 4, photographers and videographers and reporters and newspaper writers and TV talking heads and radio blabbermouths vie for space. They'll shoot or snap or talk to anything that moves.
Sammy Sosa, here to accept the Hank Aaron Award, was a big target on the field. Also people are trying to coax actor Danny Aiello out of the stands behind the Braves' dugout. He wears his sunglasses at night, by the way.
Scribes are even interviewing scribes.
I gotta go they're after ME.
User question: When Paul O'Neill attempted to bunt and popped it up to the first baseman, shouldn't it have been ruled and infield fly, thus calling O'Neill out automatically, and allowing the runner to remain safely on first base?
The Infield Fly Rule only applies to fly balls. This was simply a bunt that was popped up. It was an awesome, whip-smart play from Atlanta first baseman Brian Hunter and the rest of the Braves' defense. Too bad it all went for nothing.
Tony's got his eye on things
OUTSIDE YANKEE STADIUM -- A security guard named Anthony -- there are lots of Italian guys named Anthony in this city -- is watching the pre-Game 4 goings-on.
He tells of a story Tuesday night outside the stadium in which a young woman, apparently intoxicated and her face painted with pinstripes, stumbled off away from the stadium with a couple of seedy looking characters in tow.
Minutes later, the young woman returned with one of the characters in cuffs. New York's finest, evidently, are pretty clever.
Anthony's lived in the Bronx all his life and will do anything he can to be a part of a playoff game like this. Including keeping the people crowding the souvenir stand he's monitoring from killing each other.
His post also is right next to an ESPN production truck. "You know who's really a big man?" he asks. "Chris Berman. The guy is huge.
"And that Ray Knight? A great guy."
User question: Do the Braves have what it takes to become the first team to win a World Series being down 3-0?
New York, N.Y.
No. I mean, maybe they'll do it. But they've given up two eighth-inning leads in two games. That's hardly the sign of a champion. Their bullpen has hurt them at times (Games 1 and 3), their starter in the other game, and they've only hit in one of the three games.
Past performance does not guarantee future results. But, in this case, you can bet your bonds it's a pretty good barometer.
Scalpers' nirvana outside the ballpark
RIVER AVENUE, OUTSIDE YANKEE STADIUM -- I'm talking with a guy who has been camped outside the gates to the bleachers in right field since 1 p.m. It's coming up on 5 p.m. He said he waited in line 26 hours to get the seats, and he wants to be first one in Yankee Stadium once the gates open.
Across River Avenue, a stretch of bars and souvenir shops is already hopping with patrons. T-shirt vendors line the street. And cops.
Uniformed cops. Undercover cops. Cops of every size and color.
Just down the street from the 161st Street subway station, if you sit and watch long enough, you can see the scalpers are nervous. There's lot of money to be made out here. Bleachers seats in right field were going for $250 and up last night. On the night of what could be the clinching game, inflation has hit the sidewalks around Yankee Stadium.
A man from Portland, Ore., who didn't want to give his name, walked across River Avenue to talk to a scalper but had to abandon the transaction when both thought there were too many police lurking. He said the cheapest price he's heard is around $500 apiece.
As the streets start to really fill up around the venerable old stadium, that price won't go any lower.
User question: Do you think that John Smoltz will continue his pattern of postseason dominance, especially in big World Series games, or do you think Roger Clemens will pitch to his five-time Cy Young winning status and lead the Yanks to their third title in four years?
East Lansing, Mich.
Clemens' back is a concern, though the New Yorkers are hush-hushing that. He was rocked in his last outing, in the American League Championship Series in Boston.
But Smoltz got rocked in Game 6 of the NLCS in relief, pitching 1/3 of an inning and giving up four earned runs, including a two-run homer to Mets catcher Mike Piazza.
Is that the Smoltz we'll see tonight? Or will it be the pitcher who is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in seven career World Series games?
The thought here is that Smoltz, who battled arm problems all year, may have a few good innings in him. But the Yankees are too smart and too patient to let him get to them for too long.
As for Clemens, he, too, may only have five or six innings in him. He is 37 and coming off the worst statistical year of his career.
This one may be decided in the bullpen. And, if it is, don't be surprised who comes out of the Braves' pen as they pull out all the stops.
Fans anxiously await their heroes
OUTSIDE YANKEE STADIUM -- It's just almost four hours before Game 4 of the 1999 World Series is scheduled to start, and outside the players' gate on Ruppert Place, a Mercedes pulls up and stops.
Already, the fans are five deep behind the police barricade, armed with bats and balls and caps and scraps of paper. Scenes like this are played out in every ballpark in America to some degree. None to this degree.
People scream the arrival of their favorite players. "There's Bernie! Bernie Baseball," one guy yells as Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams walks from the parking lot across the street. Derek Jeter comes by later, and a little boy somehow eludes the dozen or so police around the entrance and hands a ball and pen to the Yankees shortstop.
Before that, though, the Mercedes stops and Game 4 starter Roger Clemens steps out. The crowd goes wild. Unlike the other players, Clemens looks up, hesitates, then strides toward the crowd, spending a little more than five minutes signing autographs.
This will be Clemens' first start in a World Series in 13 years, and he was even asked this week if he'll hang up his spikes if he wins. He is, after all, 37 years old. He's won five Cy Young awards and has everything a ballplayer could want-except that World Series title.
Clemens reaches the end of the barricade then turns to head into the park. And then he does something completely out-of-character for players who have to deal with autograph hounds for most of their career.
Clemens straightens up, turns to enter Yankee Stadium ... and smiles.
User question: When Chad Curtis refused to speak last night with NBC's Jim Gray, was he in violation of a contractual provision (either with the Yankees or with Major League Baseball) by which the players agree to cooperate with television coverage requests for such interviews?
New York, N.Y.
There is a provision in the standard player contract that players must make themselves available to the news media. The reason behind the clause is simple: The news media is what has made baseball so popular, and to continue that popularity, players are required to cooperate.
But, boy, is that a gray area (get it?). Fact is, players routinely refuse to talk to the media and some - Baltimore's Albert Belle comes to mind - flaunt their inaccessiblity.
So was Curtis in violation? In the broadest sense, yes. But the provision does not state he has to make himself available to anyone, anytime. And that's why it's really an unenforceable rule.