Comeback leaves New York buzzing
Fans express joy for A-Rod, an embattled playoff veteran
NEW YORK -- A.J. Burnett, Friday's Yankees starter against the Twins for Game 2 of the American League Division Series, was icing his arm when the walls around him started to shake, the result of the sellout crowd of 50,006 at the new Yankee Stadium jumping in celebratory glee.
The largest turnout in the short history of the new Stadium, Friday's boisterous crowd not only clued in walk-off hero Mark Teixeira of his fateful 11th-inning homer -- which he initially thought was a double -- the legions of Bronx faithful proved captain Derek Jeter right.
"It's the fans that make it what it is," Jeter said when asked about the postseason home-field advantage of his team's new $1.5 billion ballpark.
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And on Saturday morning, it was those same fans who flooded radio phone lines and shared the sports sections of the local papers on subways and in taxicabs. Many fans called to proclaim their unbending allegiance and discuss the plethora of "Can you believe it?" moments still fresh in the minds of millions following the Yankees' 4-3 win in 11 innings.
"Extra Special" read the front page of the New York Daily News, with a picture of Teixeira hugging Friday's other hero, Alex Rodriguez. Despite putting together All-Star seasons as a Yankee from 2004-08, A-Rod had endured playoff struggles in those seasons -- a sore subject among Yankees fans, who demanded more from baseball's highest-paid player.
0-2 Division Series deficits
"I'm just finally glad he got the monkey off his back," said longtime Yankees fan Tim May after watching Rodriguez go 2-for-4 with a game-tying two-run homer in the ninth inning. "Because once it's off, it's off for good. And personally, he's been tortured [in the media] and living in Jeter's shadow. I'm really happy for him."
A Columbus, Ohio, native, May flew across the country in 1996 to see the Yankees win the World Series, and he's confident that this year's team will also be worth the plane fare.
"The last couple of years, I think you almost took it for granted that the Yankees would be [in the playoffs]," May said. "But this year's team feels different -- when they won the [American League East], just watching them celebrate like they were kids winning their high school championship, and [Friday night], with the pies in their face. It's a new feeling with the mix of veterans and younger guys. It feels like it did in '96 again."
"It's back to the norm," said John Alvarez of Brick, N.J. "[Missing the playoffs] last year was just like, 'Wow -- what's this about?' And now, with these games, it feels like everybody's talking about it. It's the talk of the town. It's what you expect from the Yankees."
Alvarez, who went to Game 1 on Wednesday -- a 7-2 Yankees win -- with his friend Steven Moody, said that the first postseason at the new Yankee Stadium has already become one for the ages.
"It's something I'm going to tell my grandkids about," Alvarez said.
The sense of Yankees pride was commonplace in the entire city, as the streets were littered with people, both young and old, sporting shiny new postseason garb. With T-shirt slogans ranging from a World Series mantra of "Number 27" to "You've been Teix-ecuted" -- an ode to Teixiera -- the pulse of the city was all about the Bombers, with Yankees blue setting the tone.
"My heart can't take all of this excitement," said 90-year-old Barbara Standish, who woke up her neighbors with her late-night cheering during Friday's win.
"I've seen some great times, but this -- this is truly something special," said the lifelong Bronx resident. "And I couldn't be happier for A-Rod. It just feels like everything is coming full circle."
It was a sentiment echoed everywhere, as "The City that Never Sleeps" found its residents in a dream-like state and one win away from a trip to the AL Championship Series against either the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or the Boston Red Sox.
A commenter known as Mickeyd7 summed it up perfectly with a toast written in the Yankees' official fan forum:
"Here's to a proud organization for certain, a class organization for sure, a good solid profitable organization, one our fans support whether we sit in the bleacher seats, box seats, corporate suites [or] owner's suite," read the online post. "We all are so proud today -- tears of joy run down our collective faces, dripping with pleasure. Celebration is happening throughout the Yankees Universe.
"To the players, never have I've been more proud of a team than this team. To us fans, walk with your heads up today. Walk tall, proud Yankees fans -- I hope this team goes all the way!"
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.