The throng of media members around the makeshift stage seemed impenetrable, but Harlan Chamberlain motored his way through all of the cameras and notepads anyways. Reaching a blue barrier, he stopped his scooter, strained to look over a crowd of world champion Yankee ballplayers and tried to get a glimpse of his son. When that proved useless, he simply resorted to his considerable vocal chords.
"Jaaaaaaahba!" he yelled. "Jaaaaaaaaaahba!"
Harlan said his son's name a few more times, then spied A.J. Burnett in the crowd.
"Burnett!" he said. "Can you get my son!"
Burnett could and a few moments later, Joba Chamberlain put down the giant blue Yankee flag he had been waving up on stage. The big Yankees pitcher hopped off the stage, disappeared from the view of the Fox cameras and quickly made a beeline for his father. When they came together, they wrapped each other in a huge rocking bearhug.
It wasn't long before both were crying.
They said the same thing over and over.
"We did it, dad," Joba said.
"We did it," Harlan said.
"We did it," Joba said.
"We did it," Harlan said.
And on and on. They held tight for almost a minute. Their eyes were red when they let go.
You see the Yankees' $200+ million payroll and it's easy to get cynical. Same goes for their $1.5 billion new stadium, the seats that cost more than the average mortgage payment, the steroid controversies involving some of their team members and all the endless hype and hooey about mystique, aura and all the Yankee legends and ghosts.
But then you see this very simple and very real scene of a 24-year-old pitcher sharing the hug of a lifetime with his dad and you remember that those father-son relationships — one of the only things that really matter — are at the very heart of this great game that we love.
The same dynamic was on display everywhere at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night. Way up in the upper deck, a dad tossed his little son into the air whenever Hideki Matsui came through (which was often). A mid-20s hipster sitting next to them made sure to ask one of my co-workers to snap a photo of he and his pops with his grainy cell phone camera. CC Sabathia did his postgame interviews with his little son on his shoulders the whole time.
Their story has been told often since Joba became a pitcher with the Yankees. Harlan was stricken with polio as a child and his health problems have confined him to the trademark scooter that gets him recognized by Yankee fans everywhere. Despite his limitations, he raised both Joba and his sister in Nebraska and provided for them while working in a prison. The sad story of Joba's mother is sadly well-known — she's facing 20 years in jail for a drug charge — but he's always had the love and support from an extraordinary father. They call each other their best friends. It's impossible for them to be any closer.