Why I Missed (but did not ignore) the 1996 World Series
There is no denying that I am a Yankee fan. To say that I love the Yankees is not an understatement. Most of the important moments of my life had voices of John Sterling and Michael Kay as its soundtrack.
This brings me back to 1996, when the Yankees would win the World Series for the first time since I was born in 1978. This amazing feat took place in October. However, on Sunday September 1st 1996. I boarded a plane for Israel and would not return until Friday June 6th 1997. It was an amazing life changing time in my life, but this story is about the OTHER event taking place back in New York, one I waited my whole life for.
Two years earlier, the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1940. It was an amazing time, with the Media stopping everything because the Rangers were “finally” the champions of the National Hockey League. I got caught in the Euphoria of the championship series against the Vancouver Canucks, the celebration on the Madison Square Garden rink, the subsequent ticker tape parade in the Canyon of Heroes and everything else that may be surrounding it. It was beautiful. I was (and still am) a Rangers fan, but I LOVE THE YANKEES!
I was spending the fall of 1996 in the small development town of Karmiel, part of the Galilee region, about a 30 minute drive from Haifa. It was an amazing experience, but no regular access to American sports. I got to read simple highlights that were two days old, thanks to the Jerusalem Post. There was also more in depth coverage in the international edition of USA Today, but with a 3-4 day lag. The internet was fairly new to the consumers of the world, and my access to it was a limited to 1-2 hours per week.
Television? That was almost non-existent. I remember staying up one night for what was listed in the J-Post to be “National League Baseball” on NBC Europe. What aired was Fox’s coverage of game 3 of the NLCS between the defending world champions attend Braves and the St Louis Cardinals. I wasn’t live, it wasn’t my beloved Yankees, but it was Baseball!
The next night, at a more manageable time of 7PM, Channel 5, the Israeli sports channel, had a baseball game in its listings. Could it please be an ALCS game between the Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles? There was an American family who lived in our building, who had recently emigrated from Maryland, and it would have been great if their then nine-year-old son Ben could have watched this game. But no, 5 showed us Braves vs Cardinals Game….2! Since, this was the Israeli channel, the game was dubbed in HEBREW!
These series then came to an end leading to the highly anticipated (especially by me) World Series between the Braves and the Yankees. I knew that both NBC and 5 would be showing parts of the series at various times. I then create a self-imposed policy: I could not read any news about the games until after they aired on TV (my work schedule of teaching English to Israeli 7th graders prevented me of staying up late every might to watch a baseball game played hours or even days ago.)
I watched as my Yankees lost games 1 and 2 at Yankee stadium. I’m order for the series to return to the Bronx, they would have to win 2 of the next 3 games at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium (in its final season before moving to the 1996 Olympic stadium next door). How are the Yankees down 0-2 against the world champions going to win 2, let alone 1 of the final games at this stadium? They won all 3: Back to New York!
Game 6 was on a Saturday might, with a potential game 7 the next day. That Sunday, the curiosity in me got to pick up the paper, although doubt there would be any WS news. There wasn’t, but one of my students saw me and said words that were equally joyous and poisonous: “New York Yankees World Series champions “. Nooooo! I wanted to find out by watching the game not from secondhand news reports. Regardless I was happy, the Yankees were champions!
Now all that was left was to watch the game. This building I was living in was called a Merkaz Klita, on Absorption Center, where new immigrants lived and learned Hebrew and other practical skills in order to assimilate into Israel’s culture. Although there were a fair amount of new immigrants from English speaking countries like the US, Canada and England, The highest concentration of tenants were from the former Soviet Union. They tended to dominate the room with the one TV that had cable, and the one and only night I’d be able to see a crowing moment of my 18 years of existence, the room was filled with Russians, watching a tape of an awards show. We asked them to leave, they said no. I don’t remember if they claimed to reserve the room or not, the truth is I didn’t care. I was missing THE YANKEES WINNING THE WORLD SERIES!!! However, the people on both sides with better Hebrew skills intervened and I watched my game. Hooray.
A postscript to this, my father sent me news clippings of the excitement in NY and a VHS of the victory parade, as it aired on WCBS. I was not allowing the fact I was in a beautiful country on the other side of the world take away from an accomplishment back home that made me ecstatic.
I got to watch the Yankee win in 1998, 1999 and 2000 in the normal way back home, but the effort I had to put in to maintain my support of the Yankees in 1996, back when I was in Israel, has not been forgotten.
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