Canadians are generally known for being friendly and hospitable. However, if you wear pinstripes in Toronto that myth goes right out the window.
“Hey buddy! Yankees SUCK!”
Keith and I had been going to see the Yankees there for years. We met shortly after I arrived in Toronto and he immediately challenged me about my Yankee hat. Wanted to know if I was really a fan or if I was just wearing it to be cool?
A partnership was born. Two Pinstripers in a sea of Jays. We both were studying to be Masterful Hecklers so it wasn’t really a problem. Besides, as long as Roy Halladay wasn’t pitching, the Bombers would spot the Jays a run or two and then come roaring back.
“All you guys do is BUY Championships!”
But the point is we dealt with a lot of hostility. Most of it said jocularly. Some not so much. We looked for openings to heckle back, wore cool jerseys, and worked every angle in order to fly the colors proudly in enemy territory.
During the last season of Classic Yankee Stadium, Keith traveled to NYC to pay homage. He returned with Rocco, who would become our secret weapon. We would learn quickly that Rocco shielded us from attacks.
Rocco was a punchy puppet. You know what I mean, with the boxing gloves. He had a bemused glower and a nice jersey. He was a smash hit with children and instant kryptonite to Jays boosters. Rocco could freeze anyone harassing us dead in their tracks.
When someone hollered anti-Yankee sentiments our way, neither of us would react. After a beat, Rocco would rise slowly above the crowd’s heads and turn menacingly towards the offenders while extending one gloved fist at them. He would then turn around and gracefully sink back into the crowd. Neither Keith nor myself reacted to what Rocco did.
There would be stunned silence for a few seconds, followed by raucous laughter from the entire section. We were gold after that, free to enjoy the game and heckle as we wished. Nobody would bother us with negativity.
Rocco became more than a puppet. He took on a life of his own and became a force for good. We wondered many times as to why these things weren’t sold in every ballpark. But because they weren’t, Rocco gave the Yankees a huge boost.
The next year I made a pilgrimage to see the new Stadium in the Bronx and also came back with a puppet. They had a new design which was perfect. Each had a distinct look.
The new guy came to be known as Joe Da Clippah. He was a little more intense than Rocco. His teeth were gritted and his eyebrows angled down. He was clearly spoiling for a fight. Rocco would often have to restrain Da Clippah, which added to their overall charm.
The puppets were so effective at quelling Jays fans that Ace, Toronto’s costumed mascot, began picking fights with them. We would end up on the Jumbotron as Ace threw popcorn on Rocco only to turn around and face Da Clippah.
Families would pose for pictures with the boys. Jays fans would smile and laugh upon sight of the puppets. Rocco and Da Clippah turned out to be awesome ambassadors for the Yankees.
And best of all, they would distract Toronto fans from supporting the Jays. Hey, we will take any advantage we can get. We advise Yankee fans abroad to start bringing puppets with them to games. Maybe we could get some kind of Secret Society thing happening. Puppenati or something.
The Yankees will be in Toronto this weekend. I am back in New York but Keith is still in Toronto. He will be at a game or two.
Watch for Rocco.
*Note: This was picked up and published by bleedingyankeeblue.com: http://bleedingyankeeblue.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-tale-of-two-cities-with-puppets.html