His team denigrated, Yankees fan going home

His vanity plate was stolen, and his team limited-edition flag on his home was burned.

By THOMAS LAKE, Times Staff Writer
Published August 30, 2007

PORT RICHEY - First they stole his license plate. Then they burned his flag.

Fred Slaven is convinced this makes him the victim of a hate crime. And after six years in Florida, he's going back to New York.

Yankees - and their fans - are generally welcome there.

The opposite may be true on Blackstone Drive in Embassy Hills, where Slaven lives. About a month ago, someone stole the Yankees vanity plate from his Chevy Malibu.

Then, on Wednesday morning, he walked outside and saw his limited-edition Yankees flag, complete with the dates of all 26 world championships. It was still hanging from the pole attached to his garage. But someone had burned a black hole in its center.

Slaven is 47, and his left forearm is tattooed with the N and the Y, and his garage is a shrine to his pinstriped demigods.

The destruction puzzles him.

"Seems to me," he said, "somebody either doesn't like New Yorkers or they just don't like the New York Yankees."

Generally, hate crimes have to do with the victim's race, religion or sexual identity. Slaven would like to add a new category: sports-team allegiance.

In the world of sports, no team is more hated than the Yankees.

And no one hates the Yankees more than Boston Red Sox fans.

This makes Florida a strange battleground. Both teams have numerous fans here, and they occasionally collide, which is a bit like Russia and China having a war in India.

Slaven reported the arson to the Sheriff's Office. The incident report lists no suspects.

The Yankees defeated the Red Sox, 5-3, just hours before the flag caught fire.

This is probably a coincidence.

Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.