Standing in a winter wonderland   

Updated: April 6, 2007, 1:10 PM ET

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NEW YORK -- The Associated Press recap of Thursday night's Yankees-Devil Rays game described the evening as a "windy, 38-degree night with light snow flurries occasionally blowing around."

I was there, in Bleacher Section 39, Row FF. And let me tell you something: It got much, much, much colder than that. It might have been an illusion in my frozen brain, but by the eighth inning it looked pretty darn close to a bona fide blizzard.

Andy Pettitte and Yankees

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Andy Pettitte and the Yankees did their best to keep warm on Thursday night.

Trying to scribble notes on my notepad with a near-frostbitten bare hand or with bulky gloves proved rather difficult. But here are some highlights from the game. Basically anything that could have made the coldest baseball experience in my life more painful somehow managed to happen:

• The return of Andy Pettitte wasn't the coronation my fellow bleacher creatures were hoping for. Pettitte gave up four runs in four-plus innings, along with six hits, three walks and one wild pitch. There were nine walks, four wild pitches, one near-wild pitch that was saved by a pouncing Jorge Posada gunning a runner down at the plate, one passed ball, and about 7,912 3-2 counts in the game.

• Forty-five seconds after settling into our seats -- which is to say, our frozen metal benches -- a near-brawl erupted between the entire section of Yankees fans sitting next to me and a couple of Mets fans wearing enemy gear.

• A-Rod hit a big two-out RBI double to put the Yankees ahead in the first inning. But because he popped out in the eighth with the bases loaded (after Bobby Abreu blew the same chance one batter earlier), he got the goat horns, again … in an April game against the Devil Rays. Apparently making $25 million per year requires you to walk on water and cure the blind.

• Scoreboard-watching tidbits:

"CHW 4 CLE 3 Pierzynski walk-off HBP"

"Vlad .545, HR, 5 RBI, 3R" (How cool must it be to get recognized by just your first name on an out-of-town scoreboard?)

• Two of the biggest hits in the game were delivered by Doug Mientkiewicz and Josh Paul. Ah, so it was the apocalypse! That explains the weather.

• Abreu let a ball drop foul down the right-field line, about 50 feet out of his reach. "Paul O'Neill would've had that," said one fan a row in front of me. Paul O'Neill, now there's a guy who could walk on water and cure the blind.

• Elijah Dukes' sixth-inning homer never went higher than 12 feet in the air. No one will hit a ball harder this season.

• I stood from the sixth inning on -- not because of an exciting Yankees rally, but because the metal benches ended all circulation in my lower extremities. Meanwhile, the umps called three guys out on the bases, two of whom were safe by about 10 minutes. No wonder. Here's a rough summary of how cold it got:

Second inning: Really, really cold
Fourth inning: Teeth chattering, knees knocking
Sixth inning: Lost all feeling in toes
Eighth inning: Horizontal blowing snow!
Ninth inning: My friend Jay died from exposure. I ate him for warmth.

• In a game that took three hours and 42 minutes to play, and had about 12,000 loyal fans (from an announced crowd of 52,096) left in the stadium by the end, the Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the ninth facing 37-year-old Tommy John rehab case Al Reyes. Final score: Devil Rays 7, Yankees 6.

So to review, this was one of the worst-played games in recent Yankee Stadium history. Ten pitchers threw a total of 336 pitches, six of them bouncing away from the catcher; the Yankees committed three errors (two by Derek Jeter); Abreu was visibly shivering in right field in front of us, and Delmon Young had his hand in his back pocket the whole time, shifting back and forth for nine innings to keep what little circulation he had left going; the temperature dipped into the 20s with the wind chill by the late innings; the hitters had to see through blowing snow by the eighth; and though I have no vested interest in either team, the home team lost.

Needless to say, I couldn't have had more fun. It's great to have baseball back.

Jonah Keri is a regular contributor to Page 2 and the editor and co-author of "Baseball Between the Numbers." You can reach him at jonahkeri@gmail.com.


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