We bought our home back in May of 2001. Stephanie was pregnant with our son and we decided it was time to buy a larger home to prepare for our growing family. One of the major selling points of our home was the finished basement. It was a place that I could call my own and a place where I would be able to hang out with friends and know I wasn’t making a mess of the rest of the house.
When we closed on our house, it turned into a tough move. So once we finally settled all of the problems that occurred during the move, we did everything that first summer to make the new house our home. We decorated, we painted, we created a nursery for our first child and in the basement, I placed all of my New York sports paraphernalia on full display. It was my place of solitude in my home that reminded me of my New York roots!
A month after our son was born; I came home from work to find that my wife had painted a Wall of Champions on the door heading down to the finished basement. She pinstriped the door, listed every year the Yankees won the World Series and adorned it with Yankee emblems. It was the first thing that greeted anyone who went into the finished basement and it was awesome.
“I saved room on the door for the rest of the Championship Years this dynasty is going to rack up,” my wife said to me as I stood in awe of her creative work. And as the Yankee clinched another AL East title in September of 2001, I couldn’t wait to add another World Series Title to my freshly painted Wall of Champions!
Then in the cruelest form of fate, I sat in front of my television on Sunday, November 4, 2001 with my three-month-old son on my lap and I watched as the Arizona Diamondbacks delivered a crushing defeat in the bottom of the ninth inning. There was a deafening silence in our house for what felt like an eternity as I watched the Yankees fail to capture their fifth World Series title in the span of six years. I was a devastated Yankee fan.
The following spring, though, my wife pinstriped the rest of basement for my birthday! The walls leading down to the basement were blue and white, a baseball mural had replaced one whole wall, the coffee table was pinstriped and adorned with Yankee emblems and finally, a new pinstriped bookshelf appeared in my Yankee Mecca. It was everything a Yankee fan living in Boston could have wished for and all that was needed was another championship title so that I could truly christen the Wall of Champions.
There was only one problem. Over the next two years, the Yankees lost crucial and heartbreaking playoff series; one in the Divisional Round and one in the World Series that came just days after the Aaron Boone blast that silenced Red Sox fans for an entire winter. There wasn’t even a World Series played in 2004 and 2007! And in 2005 and 2006, the Yankees had made early exits from the playoffs. In the final season of the House That Ruth Built, the New York Yankees didn’t even make the playoffs.
My son was now seven and my daughter had just turned three and neither of them had experienced a New York Yankees World Series Championship. It is hard raising Yankee fans in Boston when the team you love is unable to win the championship while all of their friends claim that The Red Sox had done the impossible and won two World Championships. Something had to happen soon or I might lose my children to the dark side forever! So as the 2009 season started, we had hope but by the end of April, the Yankees were starting to fall apart and plunge further into the depths of the division.
This past spring, my wife and I started talking about upgrading our living situation. Our first home in the late nineties was a starter home. Our current home is a nice home but we both wanted something with a little more land, so we started discussing the possibility of selling our house and moving a little further away from the city of Boston in search of a bigger place with a bigger yard along the I-495 corridor.
We had to do some house repairs before we could place our house on the market. And as luck would have it, last winter our roof leaked when an ice dam forced the water to back up on one of the eaves and seep under the shingles. Once the ice problem was handled and the water damage was fixed, Stephanie and I had to hire a painter to finish the job. We decided that if we were going to sell our home, we might as well throw a coat of paint on the entire house because it had been eight years since any panting had been done. As we started to get quotes on the two main floors, Stephanie looked at me and said, “You know, we should paint over the Yankee basement …”
I have to admit I didn’t hear a word she said after basement. I was numb. Shell shocked was a better word to describe how I was feeling.
“I’m sorry, sweetie,” I laughed nervously. “I didn’t hear a word you said, it sounded like you said we should paint over the Yankee basement. But that would be crazy talk, right?”
“I did say we should paint over the Yankee basement.”
“What?” I asked again in disbelief as my eyes flew wide open. “Blasphemy!”
“If you really want to sell the house and look for a bigger place, you’re going to have to paint over the pinstripes. How many Yankee fans live in Boston? And even if there are a few, you lessen the number of buyers with the Yankee basement” It took weeks of coercion but I finally relented and agreed to let her hire a contractor to paint the house, including my shrine to the greatest baseball team of all time!
It took weeks but we finally settled on a painter. He was supposed to start with the basement but I couldn’t let go of my Yankee room that easily, so we decided to have the painter take care of all of the other work first and when everything was complete, I would let him paint over the finished basement.
As I said, it was a bad season early on and as the losses were mounting for the Yankees, my basement gave me solace from all of the Boston fans who were excited about how their team had ripped off a bunch of wins and were locked in a battle with the Toronto Blue Jays for the American League East lead. Although I don’t remember Boston having won anything since 1919, Red Sox fans were talking about a third world championship in 2009. It was nauseating.
But as much as I procrastinated, the inevitable happened. I returned from work on May 12, 2009 and when I walked downstairs to what had been my very own private Yankee oasis, I was saddened because it was all gone. The painter had covered everything. The pinstripes, the emblems and every piece of Yankee souvenir (except for my coffee table); in the place where my personal baseball Heaven had stood for eight long years, was a respectable, grown up adult family room. Blah! I hated it.
When my wife asked me what I thought, I told her the truth, “I hate it.”
“I thought you would say that but think about this, the Yankees have lost the World Series every year since I started decorating this room. Maybe I cursed the team by creating a Yankee room in the heart of Boston!”
“As much as I would like to blame you for the Yankee losses over the past eight years and as superstitious as I am,” I said reluctantly. “It’s a stretch of the imagination, even for me, to make a connection between our Yankee room and the lost domination of the last truly great baseball dynasty.”
“I bet they win the World Series this year,” Stephanie said with conviction as she got off the couch and started to head upstairs. “Just watch.”
“Call Vegas, they gladly take your money on that bet! They might even give you 50-1 odds at this point in the season!” I yelled after her as she headed back upstairs to make dinner.
On May 12, 2009, The New York Yankees were in third place with a 15-17 record and trailing Toronto by six and a half games. The Yankees were looking like a team heading for the bottom of the division, not towards the World Series. But the day after my Yankee Haven had been destroyed, the Yankees won nine straight and by the end of the month, they stood atop the division at 29-21. By the end of the season, the New York Yankees cruised into the playoffs with an AL East pennant and a 103-59 record
Then two weeks ago, on Wednesday, November 4, 2009, eight years to the day since that crushing defeat at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the New York Yankees won their twenty-seventh World Series title! I was elated, I was excited and as the Yankees rushed the field to celebrate, I rushed upstairs to wake up my eight-year-old son to let him know that the Yankees had finally done it! The New York Yankees were on top of the baseball world once again as World Series Champions!
When I got back downstairs to watch the post game celebration, my wife congratulated me on the Yankees win and then spinning as to show off her adult style family room, my wife said, “Look, Sweetie, we did. We broke the curse!”
And as I stared at her begrudgingly for a moment, I remembered the connection she had made between my Yankee basement and the drought of World Series titles. Maybe she was right, maybe she had cursed the team but if that was case, then she was right again. So I smiled at her, gave her a big hug and kiss and said, “Yes, we did!! Yes, we did!!”