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Axel Kohagen

Monsters and Yankees

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The first thing you need to understand is the New York Yankees breed monsters.

Monstrous Yankees seem to be human, but they grow to be so much more than that. They become legends, with their memory preserved in Monument Park throughout the ages.

This is not necessarily an insult: monsters can be heroes, too. Take Babe Ruth. He began as a boy at an orphanage and grew into a walking appetite. His home runs shot further and further away from the batter’s box until thinking of him as a mortal might be a minor baseball blasphemy.

Some monsters grow large because of a mouth that won’t quit, like Leo Durocher, Casey Stengel, and Yogi Berra. Their voices live longer than the sounds of their words, famously and infamously. Billy Martin punched his way to baseball heaven with a chip on his shoulder and a fire in his belly. He even did some of his beatings with the Minnesota Twins organization.

It’s not just players that become Yankee monsters. George Steinbrenner’s ego grew so large it still lives, even after the man has passed away. Future generations will meet that ego on Saturday Night Live and Seinfeld reruns.

These Yankees are much less monstrous than previous incarnations. Alex Rodriguez, perhaps the most Frankenstein-like hodge-podge of ego, scandal, and bad attitude a Yankees’ fan could dream of, is still injured. Mariano Rivera, pitching for his last year in the majors, is a supernatural force. Witnessing him close an inning is simply beautiful, even if it’s your team he’s erasing from the field batter by batter. The slow, measured way he sets himself before the pitch stops the heart.

Twins heroes lack monstrosity, for better or worse. The greatest Twin of all, Harmon Killebrew, was famous for his calm demeanor and love of ice cream. A writer couldn’t invent a more likeable, relatable man.

Unless, somehow, that writer created Joe Mauer. Famous for side burns, local roots, and an “aw shucks” smile, the only thing monstrous about Mauer is his ability to get on base. Even that gets overlooked by scores of booing fans, who will be the real monsters when history looks back on the Twins catcher.

Hating the Yankees is great fun for Twins fans because we get to watch the local boys take on monsters from the coast. When they win, Godzilla gets driven back to the coast and the little guys won the day.

Still, the children inside of us still cheer for the monsters sometime, even if that means cheering when Godzilla trashes a building or clapping when Mariano Rivera says his final goodbye to your home city.
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