Arizona Diamondbacks fans remain unapologetic in support for their baseball team

Tuesday, October 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) _ Steve Burciaga feels sympathy for New York over the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He believes the tragedy could inspire the city's formidable baseball team.

That doesn't mean the Arizona Diamondbacks fan wants the Yankees to win the World Series.

``Hey, this is a game, and you play to win,'' said Burciaga, a food and beverage manager from Texas who was buying Arizona Diamondbacks souvenirs Monday. ``I'm sure people in New York would understand that.''

The nation showed enormous support for New York after the attacks on the World Trade Center, and Arizonans pitched in by sending donations, supplies and prayers to the East Coast.

That generosity doesn't necessarily translate into support for the Yankees or guilt over potentially beating New York _ at least in Arizona, which leads the Yankees 2-0 in the quest for baseball's biggest prize.

``I think the Yankees have the sympathy of America,'' said Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza. ``I just don't think it goes further than that, because (the support) is really as much for the city of New York than for the team.''

While Arizona has had its share of fair-weather fans for its Suns basketball team and Cardinals football squad, signs of the Diamondbacks' current popularity can be seen throughout Phoenix.

Vendors working intersections in central Phoenix sell Diamondbacks flags alongside the American flag. Arizonans with little interest in sports are watching the games closely and fans have lined up for hours at the ballpark to buy tickets.

Some fans see the series as a chance for Arizona, an expansion team that has only been in existence for four years, to establish itself as a baseball power. They also point out that the Yankees won the last three titles and have a long history of World Series appearances.

Anyway, some say, New Yorkers don't want their pity.

``We can feel badly for the twin towers, but their fans won't cut us any slack,'' said Arizona historian Marshall Trimble. ``Do you think they want people to feel sorry for them? This is baseball.''

Baseball took a back seat Monday when members of the Diamondbacks in New York for Tuesday's Game 3 visited rescuers at the World Trade Center site, returning with FDNY hats.

``I just wanted to talk to a lot of people,'' said pitcher Randy Johnson, who held the Yankees scoreless in Game 2. ``I told them how we appreciated what they were doing.''

Of course, many of the rescue workers also were Yankee fans. ``They were all giving Randy a rashing,'' said Diamondbacks' infielder Mark Grace. ``They were great.''

Like many Arizonans, Joe Hannigan sees the World Series as an entirely separate issue from the Sept. 11 attacks. ``This is sports. That's other stuff,'' he said.

Even so, David Garcia, a Diamondbacks fan from Las Cruces, N.M., said he's noticed civility among fans for both teams. During Saturday's game, Garcia saw Diamondback fans berate a fellow Arizona fan who trash-talked Yankees fans.

Garcia said there was no sense in faulting people for cheering their team.

``This is an American tradition,'' Garcia said. ``We have to root for our teams.''