Too Short For A Column


Charles Barkley joins Augusta National. Wanda Sykes is elected to the Supreme Court. "Dilbert" cartoons hang at the Met.

That gives you an idea of what it's been like having Nick Swisher suddenly join the New York Yankees.

Swisher is a guy who won't stop laughing even when he brushes his teeth. The only time he says "no" is when they ask him if he's had enough. He could make a colonoscopy fun.

It's actually a problem for the Yankee right fielder. "I smile so much, my cheek muscles are too built up and it makes my face look fat," he says.

Not a problem you usually find with Yankees, who are generally stiffer than the center field monuments. Even moreso: the Yankees clubhouse, which has always been just slightly tighter than Jerry Jones' face. Bounding into all this stodginess came the unsinkably happy kid from Ohio State and nothing's been dull since.

"The first couple days I was here, it was a little stuffy, everybody was a little quiet, not talking too much," Swisher says. " ... I guess the Yankees were more known for having a corporate-type atmosphere."

Not anymore. Everything's more fun since Nick at Night. For instance, he has 24 different home run handshakes -- a different one for each teammate.

"The weirdest one is with A.J. (Burnett). There's some snapping, some fist bumping and it ends with some howling, like a wolf."

He has more hairstyles than gloves: The Mohawk, the Fauxhawk, the Swishhawk and the Light Socket. "I saw Johnny Damon's Jesus cut and I just decided to branch out," he says. "Soon as we can grow facial hair again (banned on the Yankees), I might go with the full Jake Plummer Grizzly Adams."

He is the Yankees' version of Kevin Millar, the crazy on the 2004 world champion Boston Red Sox team who made the clubhouse a nuthouse. Without Swisher, the Yankees aren't this deep in the playoffs. He's a human pressure-release valve.

That's his collage poster every player walks by on the way to the field. He works on it nearly every day. It's a shine shrine. Everything on it is upbeat articles and photos reminding his teammates how great he thinks they are.

"My locker is the last one you see before you go out on the field," he says. "So if a guy's having a bad day, he can go by there and maybe get a little pick-me-up."

Swisher's been more than a little pick-me-up for the Yankees. He's had one of the best seasons of his six-year Swish-hitting career (.249 in the regular season, with 29 jacks and 82 RBI), played all three outfield positions and first base, even pitched one shutout inning.

There are three things in this world everybody seems to like -- Italian restaurants, refund checks and Nick Swisher, especially "Gossip Girl" actress Joanna Garcia. She's dating the 28-year-old Swisher and can be seen at most Yankees home games.

"She understands baseball," Swisher says. "I'll come home some nights after an oh-fer and she'll go, 'Your swing looked a little different tonight, Honey. Maybe your hands didn't get back early enough?' So I'm like, dang, maybe I need to start my swing a little earlier?"

You think Kate Hudson does that?

Swisher, who does not seem to need sleep, has been known to drag players to his favorite karaoke bar, where he sings a terrific version of Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody."

What's funny is that all this time, the somebody the Yankees could've used was Swisher.

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