Yogi Berra used to say “It gets late early out there,” regarding the afternoon shadows that crept across left field at Yankee Stadium. But those same words could describe the ending of the Cyclones’ season at Keyspan Park last Friday.
In the post-Labor Day environment of Coney Island, darkness set in as the game began. Throughout the season, Cyclone games, day or night, began in sunlight, but now, with fall approaching, darkness was earlier and the night game began truly at night.
The darkness was not only confined to the stadium. Beyond center and right field, the Boardwalk and beach, so crowded during the summer, were nearly empty, and most of the Boardwalk stores and stands were dark.
But the environs were also quiet.
The announced crowd was 4,144, but the actual attendance at the start of the game was sparse. Fans did trickle in, but at its peak, the real attendance at the game was 2,500, and that’s being generous. The buzz of the crowd from the seats and concourse was missing.
The quiet was eerie after a season of sellout crowds, and was only broken when Micah Schilling hit a leadoff homer in the first. But the Cyclones, despite two more hits in the inning, failed to add another run.
The game moved along with a surrealistic feel.
You didn’t need a radio to hear radio announcer Warner Fusselle — that’s how quiet the small crowd was.
The Cyclones had been in first place all year and they were in a do-or-die situation, but their bats were as silent as the audience. Brooklyn managed only two hits from the end of the first inning until the end of the game.
The bright candle that illuminated the Cyclones’ season was burning down, close to being blown out, not with powerful winds, but through slow suffocation.
Were the Cyclones as tired as they looked?
The day before, the Cyclones left from Keyspan Park at 8 am for the 270-mile, seven-hour trip to Auburn. They could have left the day before, an off day.
Arriving the afternoon of the game, the Cyclones had to almost go right to the field, where they would play a demoralizing, 7–1 game, then leave after the game for the seven-hour ride back to Brooklyn.
They got back around 4:15 am, caught a few hours sleep and then had to be at Keyspan Park to play a 7 pm game that night.
Meanwhile, the Doubledays slept in Auburn and left in the morning for Brooklyn.
Thus, the Cyclones, within a 24-hour period, had sandwiched a playoff game around two seven-hour bus trips.
And so, when Auburn hit two-run homers in both the fifth and sixth innings, Brooklyn’s feeble response was not surprising.
Before this game, I asked Bensonhurst’s Anthony Bocchino, who was a true Cyclone killer during his 2003 campaign with the Williamsport Crosscutters, if bus trips like those could take something out of a team.
“Sure,” said Bocchino, “You can’t really sleep on the bus, you’re all cramped up and usually sitting with another player, so there’s no room to really stretch out.”
The game moved on.
Beyond the left field wall, the Cyclone and Deno’s Wonder Wheel were motionless and dark.
Inside Keyspan Park, the small crowd remained, with almost no one heading to the parking lot.
This was a night for hard-core fans only.
It’s hard to sell playoff tickets with only a few days’ notice. It’s even harder when the came during Rosh Hashanah, when Jews were celebrating their new year (and plenty of others were taking advantage of a two-day vacation). The small audience neutralized the Cyclones’ home-field advantage from the normally filled building.
The tired Cyclones went down 1-2-3 in the ninth, and the season was over.
In the clubhouse, the disappointed Cyclones showered, packed their clothes and equipment, and secured their paychecks.
In the morning, most of the players would be back at Keyspan to catch a ride to JFK for their flight home, or to pick up mileage money for a trip home by car.
In his office, manager Edgar Alfonzo refused to make excuses.
“The bus rides had nothing to do with our play,” he said. “We ran into good pitching and didn’t hit.”
Could more rest have helped? The point was moot.
Up in the press box, Fusselle packed his equipment from his perch in the Catbird Seat.
The stadium was deserted.
As he exited the press box, he put out the lights.
Each week this season, Ed Shakespeare, the bard of Brooklyn baseball, appropriated the iambic pentameter style of his ancient ancestor and offered some final thoughts in verse. This week’s contribution, “Curtain,” focuses on the end of the season:
In June, the curtain rises — lights kiss skies.
As players hit and throw upon the stage,
The audience files in — “Who are these guys?”
Say patrons checking programs, page by page.
The play begins, the characters appear.
“This Jacobs hits,” “That Bouchard fields,” is said.
“And Owen pitches strikes, that’s very clear.”
Through nightly din, Clones win — they’re out ahead.
In sun and fun, the acts go racing by.
Soon Duda’s hot, and Gee achieves renown.
The playoffs start, the rival Yankees die,
But Auburn’s pitchers pull the curtain down.
We wait until ’08 to start anew.
Good health and cheer throughout the year. Adieu.
Ed Shakespeare, the Bard of Brooklyn Baseball, has covered theâ€ˆCyclones since the inaugural 2001 season. No one has been to more games — at home and on the road — except for the team’s radio voice Warner Fusselle.
©2007 Community News Group
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