Work in Sports
On the Diamond
Dreams of sweep, Clemens-Piazza stir fans before Game 2
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
NEW YORK -- There is a nip in the air on a clear Sunday evening in the Bronx, along with the smell of hot dogs and the chants of "Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!" at Yankee Stadium.
Game 2 of the World Series between the New York Yankees and New York Mets is scheduled for Sunday evening, and if some Yankees fans are getting a tad carried away, it's not surprising. The Yankees, after all, have swept to 13 straight World Series wins, including a 4-3, 12-inning job Saturday night.
If it's possible, this game may be more anticipated than the opener. And that's because of one reason, or two men: Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza.
Game 2 is the second round of Clemens vs. Piazza, the first since the Yankees' Clemens plunked the Mets' Piazza on the helmet with a fastball on July 8. Call it the Refried Beanball game.
It has been the talk of the town almost ever since, and it gathered big-time steam when the Subway Series became a reality.
Though, clearly, the managers would rather not talk about it at all.
"I don't know what to anticipate," Mets skipper Bobby Valentine said, cutting the whole discussion short a couple hours before gametime.
"I watched both FOX and ESPN today, and one time ESPN had Mike getting hit [on videotape] six times in 30 seconds," Torre said. "I don't know. I guess that's what makes people watch.
"I don't like it, but I guess it's not my decision to try to get people to watch."
While the Yankees and Mets went through their routine inside the ballpark, thousands of fans milled around the venerable House That Ruth Built, some looking for tickets, some selling them (illegally), some just there for the atmosphere.
Outside the players' entrance, people stood four and five deep against barricades, shouting players' names as they arrived. Even Mets pitcher John Franco, a native New Yorker, got plenty of cheers as he got off the team bus at about 5 p.m. The cheers were quickly drowned out by the chants of "Sweep!"
The requisite celebrities streamed in, too, many of them before Clemens made his appearance. Clemens didn't walk into the ballpark until 5:45 p.m., much later than most of the players.
Former Saturday Night Live regular Joe Piscopo, working as a "reporter" for a television entertainment show, worked up the crowd outside the players' entrance. Included in his bit was an interview with a Mets fan and a Yankees fan, both with faces painted in their team's colors and both very, very loud.
It's all paint, of course, all prelude to a very important game in this best-of-seven series. The teams have an off day Monday, then they move to Shea Stadium for the middle three games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
If the Mets are going to shut down the chants of "Sweep!," Sunday night would be the perfect time to start.
Bottom lines ... Valentine is going with veteran Lenny Harris as the designated hitter for Game 2, which means Piazza is back behind the plate ... Torre is sticking with Chuck Knoblauch as his DH and leadoff man. Knoblauch was hitless in four at-bats Saturday night, though he did drive in a run with a sacrifice fly and scored a run ...Valentine said before Sunday's game that catcher Todd Pratt was supposed to try to score as soon as Timo Perez made contact with the ball in the top of the ninth in Game 1. He said the Mets' philosophy is to run on contact. If Pratt would have gone, he might have scored. The ball, a weak grounder to second, was bobbled by Yankees second baseman Jose Vizcaino ... Games 3, 4 and 5 at Shea are sold out ... Robert Merrill is scheduled to sing the national anthem before Sunday's game.