Remember the 2009 World Series when Johnny Damon shocked the world, stealing second base in the ninth inning of Game 4, score tied. You thought Johnny Damon couldn’t steal second base with a mask and a gun.
Then Damon jumped up, saw third base was unprotected, and stole that, too. You looked at your teenage son wearing his Utley jersey and a forlorn expression, and whispered, “The Phillies are dead.” You just knew something mystical was happening.
“I was running the bases with Damon,” Hart Seely said proudly.
So now you know. Hart Seely? Hart Seely! Who in the name of Chico Ruiz is Hart Seely? Well, he’s a grizzled Syracuse newspaper guy and he was watching the 2009 World Series on television and he turned Hideki Matsui into San 10, which is Japanese for Mr. October. He transformed Andy Pettitte into the second curving of Whitey Ford. And that my friends, is how the Phillies lost the 2009 World Series.
Seely has written a rollicking book called “The Juju Rules,” which explains how he uses his magical powers, sitting on his couch or in his lucky chair, to help his beloved Yankees win games. Makes Harry Potter look like a bumbling apprentice. Snatches atomic particles out of the thinnest air, transforms them into positive energy called Rizzutons and sends them lovingly toward the guys in pinstripes.
It is laugh-out-loud funny, the wittiest baseball book since “Ball Four.” It arrived the same day as “Baseball Prospectus,” one of those sabermetric tomes sprinkled with decimal points and arcane formulas.
The scholars scorn Seely’s claims. “They call it anecdotal evidence,” he said, chuckling. “Well, if one of those professors came home and found his wife in bed with a grad student and he filed for divorce, would his testimony be rejected as anecdotal evidence?”
Seely would like you to believe he risks life and limb, writing the book. “The first rule of Juju,” he sighed, “is that you don’t talk about Juju. Suppose, just suppose the Yankees go down this year. I will be a marked man. Hunted, with no place to hide.”
There are some other quaint rules. “Never try to prove Juju works. Waste of time. Juju does not perform in clinical tests.”
He also explains the dented toaster in his kitchen by approving abuse of inanimate objects. “Doors,” he says, “are meant to be slammed.”
He warns that there is no such thing as a lucky shirt, and if there was, trust him, you wouldn’t own it. Then he poses for a publicity photo wearing a Yankees cap with a tattered bill that looks as if two pitbulls had wrestled it down four miles of bad road.
“I’ve had that cap before my kids were born, and they’re in college now,” he confessed. “Lots of wins and losses in that cap. I’ve got a friend who, after the Yankees lost in ’76, set fire to his cap. Then he ripped the NY logo off, turned it upside down and sewed it back, like an upside-down flag, the international signal for distress.”
You are not surprised that he has fanatical friends, guys like Dog Man, who communicates in Bruce Springsteen lyrics. Or Bonfatti, a Red Sox fan (Seely spells it Socks throughout) who threw a victory party for the Boston-Mets game that included the ball dribbling through Bill Buckner’s legs. Ignored the Juju rule that you never host a victory party for an upcoming game because you wind up with a defeat, a lousy party and a splintered coffee table.
Seely ventured into football just once. It was a disaster. “I was in Iraq,” he recalled sadly. “There were these two soldiers, die-hard Eagles fans and they asked for help.
“They’re playing Dallas and they’re up 13 with maybe 4 minutes left. One more first down and shazam, they’re on the road to the Super Bowl. I’m no Eagles fan, but to support the troops, I mentally conveyed to the Juju gods an unprecedented proposal.
“I offered to trade three future Yankee victories for one Philadelphia first down. Three games for 10 lousy yards. I attempted no trickery. Their response? Donovan McNabb threw a sideline interception, which Dallas ran back 46 yards for a touchdown. Trying to make the tackle, McNabb tweaked something and limped off the field.
“The Eagles backup quarterback threw like Tea Leoni [Yankee fan, by the way]. Philly lost in the final seconds and the two soldiers marched out that morning into a war zone, tired, beaten, and devoid of human hope. I never felt worse about a loss that didn’t involve the Yankees. And it was my fault.”
So now you know. You can read the book, laugh your way through it, maybe even snatch some of the Juju rules to inspire the struggling Phillies.
“That’s OK,” Seely said. “But they cannot use the rules against the Yankees. Then again, the Phillies have never done anything against the Yankees in my lifetime.” n
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