Friday, March 14, 2008

Joba and the Bronx

The American Spectator is the last place in the world I expected to see an article on former Husker Joba Chamberlain, but here it is. Michael Dougherty examines the way the Bronx fans have adopted our North Platte native son.

"So how did a rookie who pitched only 24 innings in the major leagues and whose most famous game featured him giving up a Yankee lead in a playoff duel with the Indians become a Yankee instalegend? That Joba Chamberlain's career has exploded is not disputed. Buster Olney, in a cover-story for ESPN the Magazine noted that before he even made it to the majors, "Chants of 'Joba' rattled through Yankee Stadium this season the way 'Maximus' flew around the ring in Gladiator."

First, there's the name that his young niece, who couldn't pronounce his given name of Justin, dubbed him with and which he wound up changing legally. Then there is the personal story of he and his father and their amazing work ethic, which Chamberlain takes to the ballpark. Third is his amazing arm and wicked slider, which can make even the best big leaguer's batting look stupid at the plate. Joba has over 30 strikeouts in 24 innings and a 0.38 career ERA. He also brings some youthful enthusiam to a generally staid and professional Yankee clubhouse, and there is also the memorable playoff game against the Tribe last year in which Joba failed to hold a lead but showed heart pitching in a plague of insects so thick the players could barely see each other on the field.

While Chamberlain was used out of the bullpen last year, he is expected to eventually start. He has indicated that he really doesn't care which role he performs, he's still just happy to be in the big leagues. That attitude, and the fact he quietly does "nice guy" things like taking a low-income family from North Platte to disney World for a week during Spring Training, explain why he is rapidly becoming the new face of the Yankees.

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