In the second inning of Game 4 in the 2010 American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano hit a fly ball to deep right field. Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz leaped for the ball, which was just over the wall. Several Yankees fans grabbed at the ball - and Cruz's glove - and the ball was ruled a home run, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
The play, of course, is incidental. The Rangers won that game 10-3 and eventually eliminated the Yankees from the postseason, advancing to the World Series in the process. But that's incidental, too. The important thing here is the resulting GIF of the Yankees fans in the section of right field who scrambled to grab the ball - or glove - and then relentlessly mocked Cruz for having the audacity to attempt to impede the flight of the ball via futile catchery. "Yankeesfans.gif", one of the greatest animated GIFs of all time, was born at this moment, making the world a better place. The image itself is one of the greatest examples of Yankees fandom ever recorded in any medium, but it's finally time to explore the individuals behind the image. For the first time, we present the stories of the men and women that comprise Yankeesfans.gif. Join us in saluting them, won't you?
At 49, Don Thompson was finally approaching something close to "content" for the first time in his life. The son of Zachary and Gertrude Thompson, a financial analyst and psychiatrist, respectively, from Vermont, Thompson was a seven rower in varsity crew during high school. Although his parents hoped he'd attend Brown, Don opted for Princeton. After suffering a rotator cuff injury his sophomore year, Don seemed to lose focus. Over the holidays that year, an old family friend began talking to Don about the lucrative nature of pursuing dentistry. After looking at the financial possibilities, Don was convinced. After graduation from Princeton, Don pursued a DDS in Ithaca, matriculating and immediately starting up a private practice in Poughkeepsie, with help from a modest nest egg from Zachary and Gertrude. Don's business was an instant success. Within the first year, he had paid off his parents and married his longtime girlfriend, Laurie, who was fresh out of law school. Three years later, they welcomed their first son, Nathaniel into the fold.
It had been a tough life of extreme hardship and sacrifice, but Don felt he was doing all right. The daily 10-3 hours were a bit of a grind, but when Don allowed himself a moment to reflect on his enormous house with its vanishing-edge pool, he realized it was all worth it. On that wonderful morning in October, Don knew he'd never forget the look on Nathaniel's face when he slid an envelope along the marble countertop in their kitchen.
"What's this, dad?"
"Just open it," Don had said, a smile playing around the corners of his mouth. Nathaniel looked inside the envelope and shook out the contents.
"Yankees playoff tickets?! Woooowwwww!"
"Yep," chuckled Don. "I picked those up yesterday off the Craig's List. I figured we'd drive down to the city and catch a game. Just the guys."
Nathaniel threw his arms around his father's neck. "That's so awesome, dad! I love you!"
Don hugged Nathaniel tight. "I love you too, son."
"You're the best dad in the whole world!"
Don laughed, but he knew it was true. He was.
Nathaniel Thompson had been to a couple of games at Yankee Stadium before. Sometimes with his mom and dad; sometimes with Nana and Grandpa Zachary. He only really started liking the Yankees last year, when he was nine. He knew that the Yankees were the best team in the whole world, and they even won the World Series, for like the billionth time. He knew they were going to do it again this year. He hadn't had a lot of time to follow the 2010 regular season, but the Yankees were going to make the playoffs anyway, so who cares about the dumb old regular season? And now he was getting to go to a real, live playoff game! Wow!
He figured this was probably going to be the game where the Yankees went all the way. He could feel it. He put his favorite Ralph Lauren down vest on over his lucky lime-green hoodie and zipped it up. (He was probably going to ask for a Derek Jeter jersey for Christmas. Maybe.) He knew this was going to be the best game of all time, easy. Maybe he'd even see someone hit a home run. Maybe he'd even catch the ball! He was giddy with excitement.
Haaaaaa, shit. ‘Sup, this is Francisco "Frankie" Salazar. I love the Yankees, you know? I'm not gonna get in anybody's face about it or anything, you know? Just me and my girl, Vanessa, we were just gonna watch the game, have some laughs, you know? I figured psssshhhh the Rangers? That's like ... not even a team, you know? The Yankees got this one in the bag, man. Then when Cano hit that homer, I looked at Cruz and I was just like, "Haaaa." You know? "YEEUUUHHHH." Haaaa, shiiiiit. [chuckles for 15 seconds]
They had been together for seven years, the last four of which had been spent together at her mother's house in College Point. She loved him deeply, of course, but they were both - often - depressed at the reality of their situation. At that moment, when Nelson Cruz was looking up at their section, dumbfounded, she didn't think she'd ever seen him happier. She was spellbound, mesmerized by his zeal, his unabashed embrace of life and of living it. He was radiant in her eyes at that moment. She could scarcely move, or breathe, or think. All she could think to do was hold up her hand. For an agonizing moment that seemed to spiral into eternity, she feared he would leave her hanging. And then, finally ... he didn't. When they both looked back on it later, they would realize it had been their perfect moment. No matter what else would happen in their lives, they would always have that high-five.
"Beanie Bam-Booz" was born Bernard Banbatelli, a popular kid in high school and an even more popular fixture at Hostos Community College. He was always able to score good weed for you. Even though he wasn't known to "smoke out" all that often, he usually "wouldn't say no if you wanted to burn one down." Beanie Bam-Booz got his nickname at the various house parties after his shifts as a bar back; parties which he often referred to as "legendary," but generally involved music playing loudly while small groups drank and chatted amongst themselves, before settling down for a game of dominos or Mario Kart or, on the most rambunctious evenings, for King's Cup.
Beanie was known for being affable, with an infectious laugh, but above all else, he was known for being easily-impressed, with a propensity for exaggeration. When Cano hit that home run, Beanie was beside himself. He could hardly think straight, overwhelmed by sheer delight. He couldn't decide whether to hurl expletives at Nelson Cruz to congratulate his good friend Matty, who had hauled in the ball to the great delight of the crowd. He vacillated between both, grinning and giggling all the while. For the next 10 years, any time a house party would enter its third or fourth hour, you could count on Beanie Bam-Booz emphatically gesturing with his hands - one of which would invariably be holding a brown bottle of some domestic variety - and begin relating the tale, loudly and earnestly each time. Without fail, his story would begin with, "Oh shit, I ain't told you about the time Matty caught that home run?" His friends would genuinely smile. Of course they'd heard the story before, but you couldn't help but love the way Beanie told it. It was his favorite story.
She knew she looked stupid in that headband, but what could she do? Hats are too hot; going without anything is too cold. She supposed it was just her row to hoe. She regretted how foolish she looked, but not half as much as she regretted marrying him.
Sure, I'll applaud. The Yankees went ahead. I'll show them my support, give a whistle of encouragement. But I'm not some sort of boor who needs to get up out of his seat for every rinky-dink home run. Down in front, you ya-hoos.
YEAHHHHH BITCH MATTY FUCKIN LUKE IN THE HOUSE. MATTY LUUUUUUUKE. Huh? Oh shit, yeah, so me an Beanie fuckin Bam-Booz was sittin in the front row and shit - FUCKIN BEAN-IEEEEEEEE, ha haaaa - and I see the fuckin ball coming straight at my fuckin nuts, right? so I'm like OH SHIT SON and that fuckin jimbroni [sic] Nelson "fuckin lil bitch" Cruz comes all jumpin up in my frickin grill just all, [imitates mincing voice and mannerisms] "Enh, enh, I'm Nelson fuckin Cruz, enh." [performs "jack-off" pantomime for 20 seconds with mouth scrunched to one side]
SO ANYWAYS he's all "enh" and jumpin into the crowd and shit, so I fuckin punch his glove and his arm and whatever - I dunno - and I fuckin rip the fuckin ball outta the mitt and the umpire's just like "home run" and shit. FUCKIN HOME RUUUUHHHHNNN. And fuckin Nelson "Bitch" Cruz is all like, "Enh, he grabbed the ball, enh." But I'm just all like, "OH WELL WHY DON'T YOU CRY TO YOUR FUCKIN MOMMY SON? WHY AIN'T YOU GROW A PAIR OF FUCKIN BALLS LIKE A MAN, RATHER THAN A LITTLE GIRL WHO CAN'T CATCH A FUCKIN HOME RUN BALL YA FUCKIN SCRUB AHHHHH get outta here."
That was the fuckin best man. Too bad the fuckin Yankees had ta -[yells at friends] HEY KEEP IT THE FUCK DOWN I'M TALKIN TO THIS FUCKIN GUY HERE - too bad the Yanks had ta blow it, but what the fuck, you know? They'll win the Series next year, or whatever. FUCKIN YANKEEEEES SON.
"Y'see son, HE took the ball from HIS glove! Now it's been ruled a home run! That's worth one whole point on the runs-board! Y'see, your old dad may wear his flip-phone on a belt-clip, but this old fella still knows a thing or two about the ‘Sport of Kings.'"
"NYAH HA HA HEEEEEE BASEBALL BASEBALL"
Scott Collins absolutely loathed the consensus that the baseball game was forever the realm of the "peanut" and the "Cracker Jack." Everyone who was worth their salt - no pun intended - knew that the perfect complement to a baseball game - particularly one played out-of-doors, in the late fall - was the incomparable snack known only as popcorn.
Scott often liked to pop his own special batch at home before games, but was not above partaking in the simple, lightly-yellowed taste treat on offer at Yankee Stadium. He disdained the families that opted for the large, cellophane bags of "kettle corn" or "caramel corn" - merely shams of the genuine article, inundated with unnecessary sugars and syrups. Disgusting.
Scott was aware that sometimes his strong opinion on popcorn came off a bit needlessly overbearing at times. He also knew that when his friends and acquaintances referred to him as "Orville Redenbacher," it wasn't necessarily a term of affection. Still, he loved popcorn.
He loved going to a baseball game and enjoying the perfect snack, at the perfect sport. Sure, sometimes he'd get wrapped up in enjoying the perfectly-popped morsel and might zone out and miss the occasional play. Was that a crime? Scott was pretty sure that it wasn't.
Larry Kaepernick was nervous when Scott asked him to attend the playoff game with him. Sure, he loved the Yankees. And he greatly enjoyed Scott's company ... Scott's obsession with popcorn notwithstanding. But he hadn't attended a game in years and he was worried that his condition would be the subject of ridicule.
Larry had thought about attending therapy for his condition, but was just too embarrassed, or didn't have the time, or any number of other excuses that had cropped up over the years. Larry had a complete inability of understanding how to celebrate. He had seen others do it, but none of the celebratory antics he had observed over the years really made sense to him.
When the home run was hit - mere feet away from him and Scott! - Larry could hardly believe it. He was stunned into pausing, mid-text (the text was to his aunt and read "I AM AT THE BASSEB"), and lifting both arms into the air. He paused there, suddenly aware that - was he? - yes, he was celebrating! He looked around to see whether anyone was scoffing. No one was! Scott was lost in his popcorn reverie (Larry knew it all too well), and Larry was just a normal person, celebrating a home run.
Finally, Larry lowered his arms, smiling to himself. "You did okay, Larry," he told himself. "You did okay."
Awwwwww. Nope. No good, man, sorry. That guy caught it. This close, though. This close.
Severino had worked as a stevedore for going on 15 years when he fell and broke his back in '98. Thank god for the union, he was fond of saying, or I'd be out on my ass right now. He sat out for a long two years, laid up, getting heavier and more depressed.
He finally got back to work in late 2000, resigned to working in the office job they'd set aside for him and hobbling around the docks from time to time, supervising. Like some kind of fuckin gimp, he'd mutter to himself and shake his head in frustration, wiping sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his overcoat. He felt like he'd let himself go but couldn't work up any motivation to do much besides lay down with a beer and watch the tube after work. He and his wife, Anne, were both deeply unhappy, but he didn't have any idea what to do.
In October of 2001, just after life seemed to be getting back to normal in America, Anne told him she was leaving him. Life's just too short, she said. He couldn't blame her one bit.
Sevy spent a lot of the next decade staring into the middle distance at work and watching TV with the lights off at home. Before he knew it, he was in his 50s.
In 2009, he rekindled his dormant and deep-seeded love for the Yankees. He followed the whole season, from Spring Training to the glorious World Series win. Baseball brought him back from the brink, gave him hope. From 2009 forward, Sevy spent a lot of time attending games in the Bronx. But he was always self-conscious, always uncomfortable. He always kept to himself.
So on that day in 2011, when Robinson Cano hit a home run into the seat just in front of him, he stood up in disbelief. Nelson Cruz was on the field and throwing a tantrum. As Cruz locked eyes with him for a split second, Sevy felt something come loose inside him.
"FUCK YOU," Sevy hollered. "FUCK YOU. FUUUCK YOU. FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU." The phrase tumbled out of him, again and again, into the chilly night air. Sevy released the last 10-plus years of pain and uselessness and self-hatred. "FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU. FUUUUCK YOU." He couldn't stop. The words were setting him free.
When Sevy finally sat down, he felt lighter. The game rushed by in front of him and it hardly registered when the Yanks lost at the end. As Sevy trudged back to the subway, he still felt that lightness. He ran the moment over and over again in his head, just as he had been doing for hours.
FUCK YOU, broken back. FUCK YOU, depression. FUCK YOU, self-doubt. FUCK YOU, self-pity. FUUUUCK YOU, loneliness.
The doors to the subway closed behind him. Sevy smiled.