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NEW YORK — For about 45 minutes, David Taub’s plan worked perfectly. Weeks earlier, he had spent $85 on an Oscar the Grouch costume from Amazon.com. A few days beforehand, he had visited Yankee Stadium to confirm that he would be allowed to wear it on Tuesday, for the Astros’ first visit to the Bronx since the world learned they had cheated en route to their 2017 title. Houston players stole signs with an illegal camera, then transmitted them to hitters by banging on a trash can; Taub was delighted at the thought that he could welcome them to town encased in his own trash can.
When he arrived wearing the costume and carrying a sign reading YOU AIN’T STEALING THIS COSTUME TRASHTROS, he drew laughs and cameras. Unfortunately, he also drew attention from security. “Our policy changed,” he said the guard told him. Taub said the guard added that the Astros had complained to MLB about fans in other cities, and MLB had told the Yankees to tighten their rules. (Officials from the Astros and the commissioner’s office said they were unaware of any such complaints or directives.)
So Taub climbed a hill across the street from the ballpark, balled the costume up and buried it amid a cluster of rocks. He flipped the sign over and scrawled MY FRIEND HAD A SIGN LIKE THIS BUT THE TRASHTROS STOLE IT.
Then he and Jacob Naghimson, a classmate at Touro College in Manhattan, headed for the left field bleachers—“where the good fans are,” said Taub—and set about making themselves heard.
“I don't feel that they got punished enough, and that's what the fans are here to do,” Taub said before the game, referring to the commissioner’s decision to offer players immunity in exchange for their cooperation. “Rob Manfred didn’t do his job, so we’re here to do it for him.”
They promised to boo loudly and creatively, using Wikipedia to tailor their jeers at the players they believed to be most at fault for the scandal: second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa and third baseman Alex Bregman. Nearby, fans exhorted kids to throw back Astros batting-practice home runs. Taub and Naghimson applauded their efforts.
“We’re doing this for the children,” Naghimson explained, laughing. “This is what happens when you make bad decisions. This isn’t for us. This is for the greater good of society. We can’t have cheaters.”
“We’re heroes of the people,” Taub said. “We’re here to try to undo what they did.”
“This is like community service,” Naghimson added.
The Astros’ path to that tainted title took them through the Yankees; accordingly, most of Yankee Stadium seemed to be composed of “heroes of the people” on Tuesday. Only 10,850 fans—20% capacity—were allowed in the building to see New York win 7–3, but when the Yankees took the lead in the sixth inning, the stadium shook under their feet. Michael Lyons wore the results of an eBay shopping spree: a HOUSTON CHEATERS mask and a jersey with ASTROS on the front and CHEATERS 17 on the back, plus patches reading GOT CAUGHT and WORLD SERIES CHEATERS, which he sewed on. Robert Roque printed 78 signs, half reading CURVEBALL and half reading SLIDER, and handed them out to nearby fans, who held them up during Astros at bats. Milton Ousland, the official Cowbell Man of Yankee Stadium, skirted the no-profanity rule by leading his neighbors in a “MotherTucker” chant directed at right fielder Kyle Tucker. (This only briefly distracted them from their preferred “F--- Altuve” commentary; security gave them eight innings before threatening to eject them.)
Some fans were able to sneak in trash cans smaller than Taub’s. Ryan Donohue happened to own a foot-tall plush Oscar the Grouch; he taped on an Astros logo and added a mask inscribed BANG! Chico Heano wore a small plastic trash can around his neck and occasionally smacked it with a pencil shaped like a baseball bat. And two people in section 203 smuggled in inflatable trash cans, which they blew up in their seats and which security quickly confiscated. (The Bleacher Creatures briefly batted one around like a beach ball.)
“They took it away in two minutes,” said Sam, who declined to give his last name because he works for a political campaign. “It was the best $20 I’ve ever spent in my entire life.”
As fans got drunker, the jeering veered toward cruelty, with digs at players’ wives and suggestions that Yankees pitchers throw at the Astros’ heads. And at times the response was patently absurd: When the starting pitchers headed to the bullpens to warm up before the game, fans booed Astro Zack Greinke, who was a Diamondback in 2017, and cheered Yankee Domingo Germán, who was suspended 81 games for domestic assault.
Houston players afterward insisted that they hadn’t noticed the vitriol, but the Bleacher Creatures celebrated when Aaron Judge lined a ball past Tucker for a single in the eighth inning.
“We got to him!” said Sam. “Write that down.”
Astros manager Dusty Baker said the crowd had indeed mattered. “It sounded like a packed house tonight even though it wasn’t,” he said afterward. “We kind of expected that reception. We’ll probably get more of that tomorrow and the next day.”
This is Houston’s only trip to New York this year, but the reception may last longer than that. After the game, Taub clambered back up the hill and dug through the rocks. The costume was still there, which was a relief: He wants to follow the Astros on the road.
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