HISTORY IN THE MAKING – YANKEES-RANGERS IS ALL ABOUT NOW

ARLINGTON, Texas — This time, there will be very little history

tugging at the

Yankees, or at the opponent.

Eighty-six years’ worth of ghosts? Not this time. Intramural

tensions from a tight division race? Nope. The Rays took that home

with them. For this American League Championship Series, it all

will be about the precious present.

Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, a pair of bedazzling aces.

Josh Hamilton and Alex Rodriguez, two of the game’s brightest

talents.

Joe Girardi and Ron Washington, one postseason veteran and one

newbie, one straight-arrow chalupa salesman and one man whose past

personal demons add a breath of humanity to his team’s improbable

run.

The

Yankees and the Rangers, one team

with 48 postseason series victories, one with one. One with 27

world championships. One with none.

We aren’t used to a series like this, an important

Yankees series with virtually no

important links of passion, emotion, anger or history.

But even though the

Yankees and the Rangers have met in

three past postseasons — with the

Yankees winning nine of those 10

games, the last nine in a row — there isn’t a lasting memory from

any of it.

What does it tell you that the most remarkable moment in this

relationship of these franchises was the result of a forfeit? That

was Sept. 30, 1971. A week or so before, the owner of the

Washington Senators, Bob Short, had announced that he was moving

the team to suburban Dallas, meaning that for the first time in the

history of the modern game, there would be no team representing the

nation’s capital.

And the nation’s capital wasn’t happy about it. On the last day

of that 1971 season, at old RFK Stadium, the Senators were leading

the

Yankees, 7-5, and there were two

outs in the top of the ninth inning. Joe Grzenda had just induced

Bobby Murcer to ground out to first, and Horace Clark was stepping

to the plate.

And it was then that the crowd of 14,460 decided that there

would be no official end to the Senators’ long and mostly

forgettable history in DC.

They stormed the field. They wouldn’t leave. They started

cutting up swaths of grass, stealing bases. The

Yankees’ bat boy had his cap

stolen. And that was that. The umpires ordered the players off the

field, declared a forfeit, and baseball would disappear from

Washington for 34 years.

That’s it. Yes, there was a memorable near-Biblical thunderstorm

during Game 3 of the ’98 ALDS, a game the

Yankees would win to wrap up the

series before gathering in their clubhouse to offer a televised

salute to Darryl Strawberry, who days earlier had been diagnosed

with cancer.

In ’99, with Strawberry back in the fold, they enjoyed a sweep

again after a Game 3 win, this time with a champagne-free

celebration honoring Strawberry’s struggle with sobriety that was

something of a distant cousin to the ginger-ale bath Hamilton’s

teammates provided him after beating the Rays Tuesday night.

These are snapshots, not sentiments, and so when the

Yankees and the Rangers take the

field for Game 1 they do so without the pull of the past. The only

storylines that matter will be the ones created across the next 10

days:

Can Hamilton add another chapter to his beyond-belief tale,

adding a playoff win over the

Yankees to his epic home-run derby

performance at the Old Stadium?

Can the

Yankees continue to mow over teams

that used to be known as the Washington Senators (they’re now 12-2

against the Twins in the postseason to go with 9-1 over the

Rangers)?

Can Texas get a split out of the first two games at Rangers

Ballpark in Arlington? Because if it can, the

Yankees have the unenviable task of

then facing Lee in Game 3 and throwing Burnett in Game 4 … or

whatever audible they

have to call in order to avoid that.

The history that comes with the Red Sox is nice, the rivalry

that comes with the Angels and the Rays is fun. But the

Yankees and Rangers get to invent

their own unique relationship now, starting in Game 1. It’s

something different. And ought to be fun.

RANGER THAN FICTION

Some facts and figures about the

Yankees’ ALCS opponent:

* The Rangers have had six 100-loss seasons since their

inception as the new Washington Senators in 1961. Only the Mets

have lost 100 games as often. The

Yankees have lost 100 games twice

since 1901. The last time was 1912 (50-102).

* With the Rangers/ Senators finally winning a postseason

series, every team in MLB has won at least one.

* Newly elected Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog was 200 games over

.500 as a manager with the Angels, Royals and Cardinals. He was

47-91 in 138 games with the 1973 Rangers.

* The managers who led the three greatest first-season

turnarounds in Rangers history all are familiar to New York fans.

1. Billy Martin (27 more wins in 1974); 2. Bobby Valentine (25 more

wins in 1986); 3. Ted Williams (21 more wins in 1969).

– Mike Vaccaro

ALCS:

Yankees vs. Rangers

Game 1 Tonight at Rangers 8:07 p.m.

Game 2 Tomorrow at Rangers 4:07 p.m.

Game 3 Monday at

Yankees 8:07 p.m.

Game 4 Tuesday at

Yankees 8:07 p.m.

Game 5* Wednesday at

Yankees 4:07 p.m.

Game 6* Fri., Oct. 22 at Rangers 8:07 p.m.

Game 7* Sat., Oct. 23 at Rangers 8:07 p.m.

*-if necessary

TV: TBS Radio: WCBS (880 AM), ESPN (1050 AM)