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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
In Yankee stadium where the New York Yankees were about to play the second and final game of a brief but possibly significant early season series with the Cleveland Indians, a well-dressed man in a charcoal-gray suit was giving illuminating bits of information to a less well-informed companion, who nodded amiably from time to time without appearing too profoundly impressed by anything that was said.
"This is the guy," he said, "who made that bunt last night that started everything."
At this, the man who had previously been unimpressed sat up, leaned forward and watched Avila intently.
"Is that right?" he said. "This is the fellow, huh?"
Obviously, he had been hearing about "the bunt that started everything." And obviously he was impressed. This showed good sense. It was a bunt (see drawing below) well worth remembering, and it pointed up a situation that even Casey Stengel can't gloss over.
The bunt came in the third inning of the game played between the Indians and the Yankees the night before and was a masterpiece of conception and execution. It tipped the game in the Indians' favor (they won 9-6), probably the series as well (the unworried Indians won again the next day against the previously undefeated Bob Turley) and possibly the season.
This last may sound a little farfetched, the season being less than 25 games old at the time, but it seems less so when Avila's bunt is viewed as another impressive contribution to the ever-growing pile of testimony that the Indians are now the Big Team in the American League. There is no doubt that they have the big pitchers and the big hitters and the alert get-the-break get-the-jump players who win ball games and pennants.
Consider the setting. The Indians had come into New York on a four-game winning streak. They were in first place (two games ahead of the Yankees, who were tied for second with the White Sox), mostly by reason of 11 victories in 13 games against the four second-division clubs, an old Indian habit.
If the Yankees could beat the Indians both games they could squeeze past Cleveland in the league standings. More than that, they would put the Indians in their proper place by making it plain that, while the Indians might steal pennants by beating the blood and bone out of the second division, they still could not beat New York. The Indians haven't won a season's series from the Yankees in 10 years.