Today’s entry isn’t quite uni-related, but it’s too good an inside story not to share. Dig: As you probably heard, the first pitch at last Wednesday’s Yankees/Bosox game was thrown out via video-link by astronaut Garrett Reisman, who’s aboard the International Space Station (you can view the footage here, and you can see how it looked on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard here). By fairly remarkable coincidence, Garrett happens to be the brother-in-law of my longtime friend and financial advisor Nicole Francis. She attended the game with her sister Simone — who’s Garrett’s wife — and they submitted the following report on the proceedings:
Simone and I sat in the back row of the bleachers, taking in the whole experience and documenting it with a cleverly smuggled video camera on loan from NASA.
Having grown up in Parsippany, New Jersey, Garrett has been a Yankees fan his entire life. When he was assigned to the Space Shuttle and International Space Station missions, he was allowed to bring along a small number of things that were meaningful to him. Among them were a box of pitcher’s mound dirt and a banner that had hung in Yankee Stadium, both of which had been presented to him by Roger Clemens during a pregame ceremony in August of 2007. He often calls down to Earth from the ISS and his first question is always “What’s the score?”
What didn’t make it on to the news last night was the video of Garrett doing the “Cotton Eye Joe(y)” dance in zero gravity in the middle of the eighth inning, a dance usually done by the Bronx Italian pizza boy after he drops off pies to the broadcast booth.
I had a few additional questions about all this, so I called Nicole for some follow-up:
Uni Watch: How did Garrett become such an insider with the Yankees? Like, how did he end up getting that pitcher’s mound dirt from Roger Clemens and all that?
Nicole Francis: Well, he’s always been a Yankees fan and has always looked for ways to get close to the Yankees. But also, his father died of pancreatic cancer six or seven years ago, and Roger Clemens’s press agent also died of pancreatic cancer. So back when Garrett’s father had about a year left to live, Garrett made some calls and arranged to have his father meet Roger Clemens. That’s how it started. And since then, Garrett’s been…
NF: Yeah. Throwing out lots of ideas.
UW: So who’s idea was it to have him throw out the first pitch?
UW: What did you shoot with your video camera? Like, were you taking video of the video of Garrett on the scoreboard?
NF: Yeah. And then Simone panned to the crowd, because the Bleacher Creatures were going crazy. And then she filmed lots of other stuff throughout the game. The cops were like, “Y’know, you’re really not supposed to do that here, but just don’t get caught.”
UW: Have you put the video on YouTube?
NF: Not yet. She wants to edit it and send it to Garrett first. And it definitely needs editing, because she uses the word “douchebag” like four times!
UW: When referring to..?
NF: Manny Ramirez. Also some Red Sox fans in the crowd. I think NASA would probably want us to clean it up a bit.
UW: Why were you in the bleachers, instead of in a luxury box or something?
NF: My sister’s very low-key about that. She probably could’ve called the front office and said, “My husband’s throwing out the first pitch” and gotten free tickets, but instead we paid $40 a pop for bleacher seats.
UW: Did you tell the people sitting near you that you were related to Garrett?
NF: Yeah. But when you’re sitting in the last row of the bleachers, people tend not to believe you. They’re like, “Yeah, right — and I’m the Cookie Monster.”
UW: Was there anyone on the field, like Jorge Posada or someone else from the Yankees, symbolically catching the first pitch?
NF: No. I was wondering if they were going to do that, but they didn’t.
UW: Was there any talk of having the Space Station positioned directly above Yankee Stadium? That way Garrett could just drop the ball straight down to Earth.
NF: That would be so cool! I don’t think they discussed that. But he knows when he’s above the Stadium — he took a picture one time and sent it to Simone. You could see the outline of the new stadium alongside the old stadium.
UW: Really? How high up is he?
NF: Not that high, really — it’s only about 225 miles. But they’re going 17,500 miles an hour.
Yowza — let’s see the radar gun clock that! Big thanks to Nicole and Simone for sharing their story, and here’s hoping NASA sends up a Mets or Red Sox fan soon.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Great photo here of an American Indian basketball team from 1918. Further details here. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: What’s David Ortiz wearing on his left forearm? … The Red Sox will wear an Earth Day sleeve patch tonight. Details here. … Yesterday I asked about logo-emblazoned bat weights. That prompted a response from Mets batboy Matt Harris: “In my previous two seasons with the Mets, I’ve seen a few teams doing it. We (the Mets) usually just wrote ‘METS’ or ‘NYM on it with Sharpie, but I used a circular skyline logo sticker on it this year — I like the way it looks.” … Alex Shuman visited the United States Military Academy in West Point last weekend and got a photo of this 1904 Army football sweater. Alex also adds, “I coach JV baseball for grades 5-7 at a school called Indian Mountain in Connecticut. Most of these kids are playing organized baseball for the first time. I figure I should teach them the beauty of stirrups.” … Interesting catch by Jeff Scott: Last year Hal McRae wore No. 8 while coaching for the Cardinals. This year he’s listed on the roster as No. 15 (8 is being worn by Troy Glaus), but he’s been wearing a dugout jacket so his number hasn’t been visible — until Sunday, when it turned out he was still wearing No. 8. Better yet, there was a split-screen shot that showed him and Glaus wearing the same number. … More on Nebraska’s footwear: Yesterday I linked to photos showing some players in black cleats and some in white/red, but here’s the scoop from Brandon Rubeck: “The current shoes are still black, and that’s what will be used. The red/white shoes are a holdover from the all-white Colorado game last year, which included white shoes (but even then some players stuck with black).” … You know those play-calling wristbands that quarterbacks wear? According to a small reference in this article, the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969 had something similar sewn into their spacesuit gloves, to remind them of all the tasks they had to carry out (great find by Kevin Whisman). … The awesome Fleer Sticker Project site has a page featuring a slideshow of Sicks Stadium photos (that’s where the Seattle Pilots played), from its beginnings to its weedy, overgrown post-use state of decay, all set to the Pilots’ fight song. Check it out here (with thanks to Brinke Guthrie). … The Pope isn’t the only one whose distinctive attire has been in the news lately.