NEW YORK — The St. Louis Cardinals or the Atlanta Braves? It really doesn't matter to Ben Murphy, proud owner of bleacher seats for the World Series set to begin at Yankee Stadium tomorrow. He has a Bronx cheer for either one, he says, after waiting in line 27 hours for tickets.
Yes, the National League Championship series winner (decided last night after press time ) will have to endure the Bronx, the booing, the abusive, object-hurling fans in right field, the entire intimidation of playing in The House That Ruth Built.
From Staten Island to the Bronx, America's largest city is getting ready, in its own sassy way, for its very first World Series since 1981. The tabloids are filling up with pre-game columns. The city is fine-tuning its swagger. The New York Daily News, for example, gave baseball nine pages of coverage yesterday.
Even the city's fanatic hockey fans are aware that something is happening in the Bronx. On Wednesday night, as the Rangers were busy checking the Pittsburgh Penguins into the boards, the fans started to chant, "Let's Go Yankees."
At the same time, the city is fine tuning its swagger. Noting that less than half the people in the city were born here, former mayor Ed Koch says he tells people, "If you are here for six months, you walk faster, you talk faster, and you think faster. You're a New Yorker. That's the Yankees - they play harder, they play better, and they have a panache that is different from any other team."
Yes, those pinstripes. Reminds everyone of Wall Street. And, since this is the center of finance, some people consider the World Series to be a personal gold mine, even their own permit to print their own tickets.
A representative of the Bronx Borough president, Fernando Ferrer, warns a visitor to beware of counterfeits.
There are stories about ticket scalpers paying the homeless $50 a day to stand in line so they can buy four $25 tickets that are quickly resold for $150 to $300 apiece. Hey, you gotta make a buck!
But, New Yorkers are not all capitalists out for a hustle. The students at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin School in Queens are now including the Yankees in their morning prayers.
Leading the students on the public address system is Sister Marguerite, who looks a lot like her younger brother, Joe Torre, the manager of the Yankees.
And you may wonder why so many of the city's children are wearing Yankees caps. Most of the boyz on the block, in fact, have never seen a World Series in their hometown. But, they know what's happening.
So, it wasn't much of a surprise to David Zimbler, a teacher at Brooklyn's I.S. 14 when his 15 boys for Current Events Day decorated the classroom with Yankee pennants and newspaper clippings about the Bronx bombers. They even got Mr. Zimbler to agree to eliminate homework for two nights if the Yankees win the series. "They know I love this team," he says.
In fact, it's hard not to love this team. Gone are the superegos of the 1980s. The team used to be known as the Bronx Zoo for all the turmoil in the clubhouse. Now, Daily News columnist Mark Kriegel says the locker room has the tranquility of the Botanical Gardens.
Humility is now the motto for this group of players. After the Yankees knocked off the Baltimore Orioles, some of the O's staff talked about the changes in some of the Yankee players, such as Cecil Fielder, known as Big Daddy.
When he was in Detroit, Big Daddy swung for the fences all the time. Against the Orioles, who the Yankees beat 4 games to 1, Fielder was hitting for singles. Fielder, who has never played in a World Series, is just tickled to get a shot at a World Series ring.
In some ways, this year's Yankees are a microcosm of America. They have an increasing number of Latin players, including the popular flame-throwing reliever, Mariano Rivera.
They have reformed substance abusers in Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Both men have shown that you can return to the sport with hard work. And, they have a modest soft-spoken group of guys led by Bernie Williams, the centerfielder.
All of these talents will be showcased in the Bronx, where this week even a poet might be inspired by the autumnal sights on the Grand Concourse, the borough's Main Street.
In fact, Koch thinks it might be worthwhile for the politicians to give out-of-town journalists a tour of the burg. Like the Yankees, the Bronx has changed, except, of course, for the famous cheers.