David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
BOSTON - History was made Friday night at Fenway Park, but hardly celebrated. Alex Rodriguez finally tied Willie Mays with No. 660, but it was like a birthday without cake. Christmas minus the tree and gifts.
The milestone homer was a surgical strike off Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa, a laser shot over the Green Monster, a stunning pinch-hit blast that snapped a tie at 2 and silenced an entire stadium of boos.
But there was little joy. Sure, the Yankees stood on the top step of the visitors' dugout and applauded his deliberate jog around the bases, a delicious moment personally for A-Rod. But beyond that, few chose to savor the memory.
The Fenway scoreboard refused to acknowledge the milestone. In the press box, it was announced that Rodriguez hit his sixth home run of the season. A while later, the No. 660 and Mays were mentioned, almost begrudgingly.
The game was not stopped. Ultimately, the ball was not retrieved. The person who caught it refused to turn it over after some brief conversations with security. Rodriguez may never get his trophy.
"Well, I haven't been good at negotiating," A-Rod said, "so I'm going to quit on that."
Let's face it. Other than Rodriguez, along with his friends and family, who wanted him anywhere near Willie Mays? Even Joe Girardi, who just last week talked about the "milestone" accomplishment of 660, backed away from that comment once he did it.
The same manager who had witnessed so much history through the feats of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera chose to reduce A-Rod's homer to its most basic form -- a game-winning hit over a divisional opponent at the start of a difficult road trip.
The significance of catching Mays? Girardi passed on that one.
"We're asked about it, but that's for people to decide," he said. "Our job is to win games and that's what we'll focus on."
Now that the Yankees have a $6-million home run bonus to fight, maybe Girardi has to toe the company line, and that's what he chose to do. We can't imagine another manager biting his tongue after seeing his player do something extraordinary. Quite the opposite. But that's what the Yankees are left with, from the front office down.
In the clubhouse, the only souvenir was a wet splotch of clubhouse carpeting, soaked by spraying A-Rod with beer. At least Rodriguez's teammates did that. Publicly, their comments about A-Rod have been measured, but they did show some appreciation late Friday night. We just don't know how much of it had to do with beating the Red Sox as opposed to matching Mays.
"I don't know what it means," Rodriguez said. "I'm actually very excited trying to stay in the moment. I got emotional."
The only emotion at Fenway was vitriol, first at the sight of A-Rod coming up to pinch hit for Garrett Jones and every pitch Tazawa threw from that point on. That's to be expected.
These are the Yankees, after all, and Rodriguez is the Darth Vader of the Evil Empire. While this snarling pit was the perfect setting for an anti-hero like A-Rod, it put a different spin on the event.
Many times, there is a mutual respect between Boston and the Bronx. But A-Rod strips this rivalry to its bones, where the real hate lives. And he's thrived on that lately.
"I got to tell you, usually you don't hear the difference," Rodriguez said of the Fenway jeers, "but that booing was pretty intense, pretty passionate."
For sheer drama, this could not equal the revenge theater of A-Rod's homer off Ryan Dempster after being drilled on this same turf in 2013. But it came pretty close. And now the countdown to Mays is over.
Next up, Babe Ruth.