Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Day 2: Black Smoke, No Yankee Manager

It's a wild scene down in Tampa/St. Peter'sburg Square, where Yankee fans, bloggers, and press are all huddled together, watching the chimney of the Yankee compound, all hoping for the white smoke that will indicate that the Conclave has selected the next Yankee Manager...

As you can see from the picture on the left, Wednesday, the smoke was black. Or, as Howard Rubenstein put it (courtesy of Pete Abe's LoHud Blog):

Statement from Howard J. Rubenstein, spokesman for The New York Yankees:

“The Yankees have completed their discussions today. No decisions have been made concerning Joe Torre. The discussions will continue.”

The conclave will reconvene tomorrow. For those of you unfamiliar with the selection process that gets us a new Yankee manager, here is a quick refresher, courtesy of Wikipedia:

The election of the Yankees Manager almost always takes place in the Tampa Compound, in a sequestered meeting called a "conclave" (so called because the front office electors are theoretically locked in, cum clave, until they elect a new manager). The ballots are distributed and each front office elector writes the name of his choice on it and pledges aloud that he is voting for "one whom under God I think ought to be elected" before folding and depositing his vote on a plate atop a large chalice placed on the altar. The plate is then used to drop the ballot into the chalice, making it difficult for any elector to insert multiple ballots. Before being read, the number of ballots are counted while still folded; if the total number of ballots does not match the number of electors, the ballots are burned unopened and a new vote is held. Otherwise, each ballot is read aloud by the presiding Traveling Secretary, who pierces the ballot with a needle and thread, stringing all the ballots together and tying the ends of the thread to ensure accuracy and honesty. Balloting continues until a manager is elected by a two-thirds majority, or until George Steinbrenner gets sick of the whole thing, whichever happens sooner.

The ballots from an unsuccessful vote are burned along with a chemical compound in order to produce black smoke, or fumata nera. (Traditionally, wet straw was used to help create the black smoke, but a number of "false alarms" in past conclaves have brought about this concession to modern chemistry.) When a vote is successful, the ballots are burned alone, sending white smoke (fumata bianca) through the chimney and announcing to the world the election of a new Yankee Manager.

The General Manager then asks the manager-elect two solemn questions. First he asks, "Do you freely accept your election?" If he replies with the word "Accepto", his reign as Yankee Manager begins at that precise instinctive instant, not at the inauguration ceremony several days afterward. The GM then asks, "By what name shall you be called?" The new manager then announces the regnal name he has chosen for himself.

The new manager is led through the "Door of Tears" to the clubhouse in which three sets of white home uniforms (immantatio) await: small, medium, and large. Donning the appropriate uniform and reemerging into the dugout, the Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations then announces from a balcony over Legend's Field the following proclamation: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum! Habemus Procurator! ("I announce to you a great joy! We have a manager!"). He then announces the new manager's Christian name along with the new name he has adopted as his regnal name.
The question of the next Yankee manager's regnal name is often as intriguing as the identity of the Yankee manager himself. Under Steinbrenner's 1974 encyclical, even a returning Yankee manager must select a regnal name, so if Torre is retained he would rule as Josefus IV or VI (we're bad with Roman numerals). Rumor has it that should Joe Girardi get the call he would likely select the name of Yogi IV--heedless of the short, unsuccessful reign of Yogi III (only 16 games!) . Many are pleading with Girardi to consider to at least dilute the Yogi tradition with another name--perhaps become Buck Yogi I ("All the rigidity of Buck, but with the catcherliness of Yogi," one well-placed Yankee commented). If Don Mattingly is elected, he is said to be considering Miller Citricus I, a name invoking the wisdom of Miller Huggins and the bright acidity of Bob Lemon.

Of course, even though he is still under contract to the Cardinals, Tony La Russa has taken the liberty of announcing what his regnal name would be: Tony La Russa. "I think it would be a bit graceless of me to interfere with perfection."

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