Remember back in December 2017, when the Red Sox tweeted “Rivalry” with some flame emojis, and that was considered big baseball drama?
Ah, the good ol’ days of having baseball and having drama that wasn’t actual drama, like say, a global pandemic.
Ever since 2004, it’s been harder to keep that flame of rivalry alive. With the Red Sox trouncing the Yankees so spectacularly in multiple postseasons in the last two decades, and Boston winning four championships in this millennium to New York’s lone ring, the David and Goliath narrative has, for the time being, been shelved. Yes, there have been flashes of heated hatred between the teams, like the Yankees luring Jacoby Ellsbury away – a blessing in disguise, so thanks! – or hiring Aaron Bleeping Boone as their manager for no legitimate reason other than his infamous walk-off home run, and Joe Kelly and Tyler Austin igniting a bench-clearing brawl back in April 2018. But for the most part, things have cooled off. And now, with no baseball at all, it’s hard to have a rivalry, apart from hating Aroldis Chapman for being a wife-beater.
But back in 2008, things were different. The Red Sox were fresh off their second championship in four years, and the Yankees were tearing down the House That Ruth Built in favor of the bland mausoleum they now inhabit, and the rivalry made a cameo in the construction process.
Twelve years ago to the day, construction workers at the site of the new stadium unearthed a foreign jersey near the third-base line. It had no pinstripes, and bore red letters and a name that struck fear in Yankees fans and pitchers alike:
Yes, a construction worker had played the ultimate prank: encasing a Big Papi jersey under two feet of concrete, in hopes of cursing the new stadium. The prankster was Gino Castignoli, a lifelong, diehard Sox fan. And his prank apparently ended up costing the construction crew over five hours of their time and over $50,000 in overtime pay, to jackhammer the jersey free. Castignoli told the Boston Herald that he signed on to work the construction site for one day just to pull of the prank. Had he been able to keep it to himself instead of bragging to his friends (it is a brag-worthy move, to be fair), we may never have known.
Unsurprisingly, the Yankees top brass were super chill about the prank, with one official calling it “a bad, dastardly act.” Hank Steinbrenner, Yankees SVP and son of team owner and famously-chill person George Steinbrenner, remarked “I hope his co-workers kick the s*** out of him.” Team COO Lonn Trost consulted with the Bronx district attorney, who likely told him to shove off, because he had actual criminals to worry about, and Team President Randy Levine called Castignoli “someone who had really bad motives and was trying to do a really bad thing.” Eloquent stuff, Randy.
The jersey ended up being sent to the Jimmy Fund and auctioned off for charity, with a winning bid of $175,110, so far more good came from this situation than harm. I’ve looked for more recent news on Gino Castignoli, but have not been able to determine whether or not he ever faced any legal recourse for his epic prank, though a lawyer at The Heritage Foundation wrote about the possible legal ramifications of Gina’s prank back in May of that year. And while the jersey was removed and the Yankees went on to win the 2009 World Series, they haven’t won one since. So maybe Gino’s plan worked after all, and as David Ortiz proudly stated in the 2004 World Series film, “the Curse of the Big Papi” still remains in the Bronx.
Despite missing baseball, it is fun to be able to look back on baseball’s past, and have the time to dive into stories like this. We might not have baseball, but we’ll always have baseball.
Photos: NY Times, CA Times