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Home » Baseball, Featured, Stories, True and Otherwise

How I Became A Baseball Fan

Submitted by on September 21, 2015 – 8:36 AM32 Comments
Screen: CourtsideTweets on YouTube

Screen: CourtsideTweets on YouTube

Thanks, Doc.

Thirty years ago today, my parents hauled me to Shea Stadium for a Dwight Gooden start. I've told this story a jillion times so tl;dr: was 12, was having none of it, brought a hardcover book into the stadium, etc. Then, this happened.

I remember the home run staying up a lot longer and going a lot farther, but then again, that's maybe just how you remember the moments when you fall in love, because that's what happened. A sell-out crowd got on its feet and stayed there for a while, and strangers high-fived each other and capered around in place, and my dad did that "what a time to be alive" chuckle he does when he's well pleased, and maybe I remember that stuff wrong too. Who cares.

On the anniversary of my baptism into the church of baseball, I'd like to thank Mr. Gooden, Dave Sr., and the handful of people kind enough to laugh at my Aaron Heilman jokes lo these many years. May the ghost of Happy Chandler bless and keep this union.

How'd YOU fall in love with baseball? Tell me a story.

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32 Comments »

  • Suzanne says:

    Cool story, Sars. :)

    Love of baseball has always been in my family. Out of a few letters from my Grandpa when he was in training for WWII, there's one which mentions how he got leave in D.C. – and how he went to see a baseball game. I don't remember whether he called them the Nationals or the Senators in the letter. Apparently they got smoked. I never heard him use the saying "First in war, first in peace, and last in the American league" – but my dad definitely did, and my grandpa would always nod, sagely. This usually happened on the back patio, after dinner, and when the Tiger game was on the radio.

    Because my family wasn't super well off, we would only get to go to the stadium once a summer. My brothers and I would squish into the Oldsmobile, and we'd follow the cars of the uncles and aunts in a mini caravan across Michigan, width-wise. My most vivid memories are of "old" Tiger stadium – how it was cavernous, chilly, and kind of smelled like pee in places. There was also that peanut guy on the concrete skywalk. We'd try to out-imitate each other on the car ride back: "One! Dollar! on the OUT-side! FIVE dollars on – the IN-side!"

    The summer games have blurred together, as summer events in your youth do. The following, though, sticks out in my memory.

    We happened to be in right field; I think near first base, though definitely in the upper deck. As usual, we were permitted one treat each at the ballpark. That day I chose one of those chocolate ice creams with the little wooden stick spoon. I was navigating that spoon – it had a splinter or two – and devouring the ice cream during the Tiger at-bat. It was pretty hot, so everything was melting and I was super determined to get it all – chasing the chocolate liquid, complete with "om nom nom," I'm sure …

    … when this happened:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Cum4NKXnho

    The roar of the crowd made me look up just in time to watch the ball go up, and up, and up – and not come down. And everyone in that stadium LOST it. I think I dropped my ice cream and I was so happy I didn't care.

    So yeah. It's one of the happiest memories of baseball I have. Go Tigers!

  • Judy says:

    Baseball was not a thing in my family. My family was a football family (whether we liked it or not). Then I dated the biggest Giants fan that ever lived, during a rebound of a broken heart, which never ends well. I hated baseball after that, especially since Barry Bonds was local and a dick and blah blah.

    Cut to 10 years later, I met another Giants fan, in the spring of 2013, right after their second World Series win (which, being a hometown girl, was happy for my hmetown team, but… baseball). Who would have the game on in the background while we hung out, but never put the game ahead of me, so I didn't learn to resent it all over again. Who then patiently answered all my questions about the game and helped me to understand it and see how cool it actually is. That was a bad season, I am told. Didn't make the playoffs, and me, being a hockey fan was like, wait, only four teams make the playoffs??

    Then the 2014 season… I learned more and then could actually talk about games like I actually knew stuff. I watched playoff games through my fingers- oh the stress of that! And then leaped joyfully off the couch with my boy when we won the Series. The Panda flop at the end remains one of my favorite baseball moments even after all the dicky things he did/said in the off season. (Marco Scutaro in the rain in 2013, before I even watched the giants but I saw that, is another).

    So for me, I guess loving baseball was more of a slow burn than the immediate love you found (though hockey was like that for me- going to a game made me fall in love), but I enjoy it now. I went to my first game in June of this year, and it was really fun. They gave me a commemorative certificate (at almost 40, and I was in line with all the 7 year olds, still super excited).

  • Jessica says:

    will be coming back to this thread in the following days for regular doses of AWWWW

    me: two memories, both of them involving public transit.

    #1: Going to see the Braves play Houston during the '91 season, maybe a week or so before clinching the NL West. We took MARTA to the stadium and that was a big deal in and of itself — suburban kids that we were, we never got to ride MARTA — and the train was full of hyped Braves fans to and from.

    #2: Being in NYC for a job interview during I think Game 3 of the Subway Series (I can't remember if the Mets or the Yankees hosted first; it was the first of the Series at Shea) and thinking, I will never get a chance to this again, and Shea is kind of near La Guardia, right? So I took the train with all the excited fans and milled around the stadium until I had to get to my flight somehow. A sympathetic cop* not only helped me but tried to sell me on getting an apartment in Astoria if I got the job.

    * (obligatory acknowledgment that white privilege was in play in my favor and I didn't really think about it at the time.)

    Finally, while I continue to sing "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" loudly and tiresomely in the Braves' direction, I am not made of stone, and so, awwww.

  • Dukebdc says:

    I did not grow up in a town with a MLB team, but my dad's family lived in Atlanta, and the Braves game was always on TV. I was curious about baseball from a young age because I had been told the story umpteen times about how my Great-Uncle Bill skipped my parents wedding in 1969 because there was a Braves game that day. And that Uncle Bill had met Babe Ruth once, at the end of his career.

    When I started watching the Braves, they were in the midst of the decade of misery (aka the 1980s). The team was awful. I was very impressionable and took to heart my teachers and parents urging me to always be encouraging to those having a hard time. So part of me thought that I could encourage the Braves to play better by being a devoted fan. Ha! Dale Murphy was my favorite player, and my parents were thrilled since he was a Mormon who played fair and wouldn't endorse anything stronger than milk.

    I dated a guy for 6 years (!!) who hated baseball. My next boyfriend loved baseball, and he's now my husband. Funny how that worked out.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Aw, poor Dale. That was a dark time for Bravos fans, for sure. I got lucky rooting for a team, like the current Mets, that was on an upswing after years of hideous performance, but man was Generation K a hard bounce. The Flushing Nine really make you work for it.

  • Rebecca U says:

    My dad, enough said, right?

    Also, we saw a game where Ricky Henderson stole a base that wonderful summer. We went to a few A's games when I was kid since they were more affordable than the Giants (and probably still are).

    Re-engaged when my son started (not Little League) majors as pitcher. He's closing pitcher and proud of it.

  • bluesabriel says:

    I grew up in Tigers country, the child of two music majors, so while most of Michigan was very into their sports, I was oblivious with the exception of the sports I participated in (track, cross country, etc). When I was in undergraduate, I had roommates who loved baseball, but with all of us living out of market from our home teams, no one really watched, just talked smack about the standings. I had been to a few major league games in that time, one with said girlfriends, and always enjoyed myself, but was never really engaged. I knew enough to know that seeing McGuire hit a home run in person in 2000 was a very cool thing, at least, but that was about it. And besides, the Tigers in the early 2000's? Not a good baseball team. Like, historically bad.

    My husband had grown up in a household that loved the Tigers and actually followed them. For some reason, in 2004, we got really into the whole Red Sox experience. I remember watching a good majority of that World Series and being so swept up in what it meant, how it made so many people so excited and so happy. Flash forward to the 2006 Tigers. I wish I could recall exactly at what point in the season I started really following them, but by the play-offs, I was hooked. Looking back, it was similar to getting swept up in the Red Sox season, all that excitement about a team who had been so very, very bad just a few years ago actually playing meaningful baseball, but this time it meant something more being the team from my home state. I started really paying attention, actually knowing the players, picking favorites, getting emotionally invested in the play-off games. Of course, it all ended with me getting a drunken, taunting phone call from my Cardinals-loving best friend, but the damage had been done.

    I know for a lot of Tigers fans, jumping into 2006 makes you a bandwagon fan, but that seems silly to me. The 2006 season was an easy one to fall in love with and, yeah, I was lucky enough that I got a honeymoon period of many excellent seasons after that. Those seasons also came with a lot of intense heartbreak (I'm looking at you, Texas Rangers), and this season? The less said the better. But you shouldn't have to justify your fandom. I loved that 2006 team fiercely, and because of that, I've come to love not only the Tigers but the entire sport of baseball.

  • bluesabriel says:

    @Suzanne Go Tigers! To go with my above post, this was my Tigers homer:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTUvp0R2VAM

    I still get chills when I see that clip.

  • Haras25 says:

    1982. I was four. My parents had me memorize all of the starting Cardinal players and their positions so I could be quizzed on command for the grandparents. They could give me just the base, or just the player and I'd tell you the rest of the info. I don't remember all of them now, but I do remember as a kid eagerly waiting for Tommy Herr to bat because he made the silliest faces. And of course I always wanted to see Ozzie Smith do his famous flip.

    I also spent a week each summer at my grandparent's house in the country when I was young, and those visits were full of muggy, mosquito-filled, porch-sitting KMOX radio baseball listening. Usually nursing a white soda of some kind (what was with grandparents and lemon-lime, anyway?).

    Baseball does have a way of seeping into the blood in a permanent way. I love baseball even when I don't have time to follow it in depth and watch every game. I'm still in St. Louis, so it's easy to catch the fever when the energy inevitably swells around spring training and playoff time.

  • Amanda says:

    It's not much of a story…my passion for baseball was kind of gradual.

    I was a senior in high school in New England during the 2004 postseason. I watched, I distinctly remember watching The Slap live and all four World Series games, it was electrifying, but…didn't go anywhere for me. Finishing high school, starting college, no time for a new pastime.

    A year later things were not as rosy anymore. I was struggling in college, had made no friends, had nothing to show for myself. As one of those kids everyone had pegged to Be Something Someday, that was really hard. I needed something to latch onto. And slowly, over the course of the year, that became baseball. I threw myself at it, hard. Read a million books, watched whatever games were on TV, probably put some of my summer-job paycheck into MLB.TV if memory serves me. It was my escape. And I was insatiable for about three seasons before it started tapering off.

    I'm glad I started up when I did. I clearly needed it, or something like it, in my life. It was part emotional outlet, part means to socialize, part just something else to nerd out on (anyone want to talk about 1800s baseball? anyone? Bueller?). Eventually I had to take a break from it for personal reasons, but kept following my Dodgers casually in the meantime.

    Sars, I reread your interview with me about the Dodgers at the beginning of tis season and was like, "…Man, I miss that team." That particular iteration of the team, sure, but the Dodgers in general. And between that and the zero-attendance Orioles game it just lit the fire again and I'm so glad to be back because it is so much fun. I just wish I could stay up late for their home games! At least I finally got my cable fixed so I can watch the Red Sox.

  • candlewax says:

    I was in third grade. My teacher was a huge baseball fan. She didn't want to miss ANY of the play offs because, helloooo, the Cubs were going to the World Series!

    I still love baseball, and I still hate the Padres.

  • ProfessorLeah says:

    For me, it's the sound of the summer nights of my childhood. My dad loved to listen to the Padres on the radio (still does – on a little old battery operated GE handheld from like 1984). I can remember sitting on the back patio, listening to the dulcet sounds of Jerry Coleman and Ted Lightner calling the game, and me trying to stretch out that magical space before bedtime juuuust that much farther, waiting for Tony Gwynn to hit and for Coleman to "hang a star on that, baby."

    I don't follow baseball much right now; it's been a rough few years for the Friars. But man, baseball of my childhood, that nostalgia can get me to a game.

  • Nilda says:

    So growing up, my father loved baseball but we never watched the game together until I was well into my late teens so I didn't get it from him. Or if I did, I had to rebel against in some manner against him. He hated the Yankees and they became my team.

    I thought baseball was boring when I was kid as I waited for it to be over so I could watch regular television on WPIX in NYC. The Yanks playing would be be background noise to me as Bill White and the Scooter talked baseball.

    Then one afternoon, I looked up and saw Billy Martin pointing to some black sticky stuff on a bat to the umpires.

    Then the umps talked a bit.

    And then the umps reversed a home run.

    And then the George Brett came running out of the dugout wanting to hit everyone on the field for the decision.

    And then I became a Yankees fan.

    Because none of that was boring. I would learn later about the rules of the baseball, the rhythm and the pace of the game and the characters on the field and in the booth.

    But for that moment? Thank you Billy! You flipped a switch in me and made me fan.

  • Heather C. says:

    I don't think it was one particular moment, but the Phillies were on all season long in my house, every year. There's an audio tape of me when I was a kid, reading a book into the tape recorder for some reason, but in the background you can hear Harry Kallas and my dad talking to my little sister about what was going on during the game. Kallas's voice still makes me feel warm and gooey inside; he is really the voice of my childhood. When he died, I burst into tears.

    I remember insisting I bring my softball glove to the Vet when I was around nine, just in case a fly ball came near us, even though we were no where near fly ball territory. My parents thought I was crazy. I have little recollection of the 1980 series win since I was only five, but I distinctly remember watching them lose in 1983 to the O's; I had a stomach virus and had our little portable black and white tv moved into my room so I could stay in bed, and since I wasn't going to school, I could stay up and watch them lose.

    I guess I never really mind my Phillies losing, because when I was growing up, that's all they ever did. Losing in 1993 almost had me bleeding out in my dorm room, and winning in 2008 made my head spin. I'm a Phillies fan – these things don't HAPPEN to us.

  • Dukebdc says:

    The Braves games used to be on TBS almost every night, since the station had little else for programming beyond reruns of the Andy Griffith Show at that time. I loved Skip Carey, Ernie Johnson Sr., and Pete van Weiren passing the time on-air during the dark days of the Braves. And west coast games were entertaining, since they knew there were probably only 10 people were tuned in at 1:00am to watch the end of a lopsided loss to the Dodgers. One gimmick I still remember – after the game a horror movie was scheduled to show. The broadcasters, on the fly, said that anyone who stayed up to watch the entire movie after the ballgame and could send them an accurate synopsis would win a prize. The movie was "Squirm" about earthworms running amuck after an electrical shock turned them into giant flesh-eating terrors.

  • SolitaryBlue says:

    My family had never been really into sports, so we didn't pay that much attention to baseball. Until it was 1991 and I was in middle school and we were living in Atlanta. The Braves were going from "worst to first" and baseball was all anybody was talking about. Suddenly we were watching baseball games as a family, and getting really into it.

    That's when I started learning about the rules of baseball, and who the players were, and all that. But the moment I really became a baseball fan was when this happened.

    I haven't watched much baseball for the past few seasons but I can still watch that clip over and over.

  • Leigh in CO says:

    Both my parents were fans of the game; Reds fans in the '70s, more general fans in the later years. Dad coached and umped big brother's Little League team (I still wear his ump t-shirt, but rarely; there aren't many washings left in it, and I cannot bear the thought of losing one of my most precious things to Tide and time). Mom was fervent about the Braves when she discovered TBS after they FINALLY got cable in the '80s. Baseball was on the tube in the background a lot.

    Albuquerque's AAA team in the early days was the Dukes, and we'd go to at least one game every summer. Dad tried to teach me to score the games, but we didn't go often enough for me to remember all the details between times, so he had to keep at it. When I got a little older, we went to baseball games on road trips — the Rangers one year (a story that I told for years about Nolan Ryan pitching that game has been disproven embarrassingly recently by actual facts, but at least I still have the cap Dad bought); a cold, windy, thrilling trip to Candlestick another (I sadly outgrew that sweatshirt). I've visited more stadiums than I ever thought I would since then, and it's a thrill every time.

    I'm a Rockies fan now (well, not NOW – I'm on that Blue Jays bandwagon hard through October), but it's a nomadic journey that got me here. No stories of fanaticism, just memories of Little League bleachers, Dukes Stadium sunsets on hot New Mexico nights, and all of the games and stadiums since.

  • Lisa says:

    My mom was (and still is) the biggest baseball fan in my family, and basically every childhood memory I have of summer has a Brewers game playing on the radio in the background. As a kid I think I was more interested in Bob Uecker's between-play dialogue than the actual game, and based on the number of away games I skipped listening to this season (he only calls home games now) that may still be true.

    My boyfriend is of the "baseball is too slow and boring to be entertaining" camp (though he mysteriously adores baseball history, so I keep him around) and he used to be totally perplexed that anyone could LISTEN to baseball since he thinks watching it is already boring enough, but then he overheard a game I was listening to and I think he kind of fell in love with Bob too. Uecker is a national treasure and I will probably cry when/if he eventually dies.

  • mspaul says:

    I was never much of a baseball fan as a kid – my dad thought baseball was soft ("If you can't play it in the rain, then it's not a real sport.). I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in the 70s/80s, so there really wasn't anything to even want to be a fan of until '84, but even then I was really only interested in Ryne Sandberg.

    It wasn't until I moved to the city after college, about a mile away from Wrigley Field, that I started to care about the Cubs, although even then it was mostly just as a social thing – the Wrigley Field bleachers really are the world's largest beer garden. But then 1998 happened. The Cubs were finally good. Like, GOOD. Kerry Wood struck out 20 batters in a game early in the season, giving Cubs fans the worst thing ever: hope. The home run race between Sosa and McGwire started in earnest in June, and lit a fire under the North Side fans.

    When we finished the season tied with the Giants, forcing a one game tie-breaker to see who would be the wild card, I managed to score tickets through my work. I've been to a lot of sporting events in my time, but nothing can touch the sheer excitement and sense of something wonderful that was in the ballpark that night. When Mark Grace caught the last pop-up to win the game, I knew there was no turning back – I was forever a Cubs fan.

    It's been a tough row to hoe since then, but I still live about a mile from Wrigley, and I still start every season with ridiculous optimism. If we stay where we are in the standings, we'll be playing one game again to get into the playoffs. I can't wait.

  • Mathilda Moo says:

    Awww. How can you not love a game that gave us Yogi Berra? RIP, Yogi, it gets dark out there…

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I seriously say "CAT scan revealed nothing" once a week at least. Good trip, sir.

  • SolitaryBlue says:

    I don't know why the link didn't show up in my earlier comment… anyway, this is the clip I meant.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qurFL7PbnKU&feature=youtu.be

    Still one of my favorite baseball moments ever.

  • Amy says:

    I like to say that it all started because our local library was giving out tickets to Cubs games for their summer reading program. My mom wouldn't let me get them, because I was already an avid reader and didn't need any encouragment in that department, but also because she said baseball was boring. She told me to go watch a game on TV with the sound off because that's what it is like going to a live game. She thought I wouldn't know what was going on and would hate it. I had a need to prove her wrong. That must have been 1984, although I don't remember much of that playoff run.

    The truth of my love probably has more to do with a certain handsome first baseman and the rest of the 1989 "Boys of Zimmer" Cubs though.

  • Katie says:

    1984. I was about to turn 6 and my Padres were in the post-season for the first time. I knew it was a big deal because my parents, who were very strict about when we could watch TV and what we could watch, went crazy. Not only was the TV on at all sorts of odd hours – TV with commercials no less – but they even got out an extension cord so they could drag the TV set into the kitchen so we could watch the games during dinner! (Such an occurrence was not seen again in our house for 24 years.) I was hooked. By middle school I was saving my allowance for $5 general admission tickets and begging my dad to take me to Sunday afternoon games. This was the very early 90s when the Padres were so so bad and so so embarrassing (remember Roseann Barr and the national anthem?). But we had Tony Gwynn – so there was always something to love.

  • scout1222 says:

    Katie!!! Fellow Padres fan here. I didn't start out that way though.

    I don't remember any pivotal moments that made me into a baseball fan, but my dad enjoyed baseball, and it was the only sport we watched on TV. We were in Los Angeles and watched the Dodgers. I remember being bored by watching it on TV. As I got a little older, I started playing softball, and we started to go to Dodger stadium on occasion. I became a fan.

    This was in the era of Fernandomania, when the Union 76 gas stations would give away portraits (printed on 8.5×11 paper) of various ball players. I adored Steve Sax and Steve Garvey, my mom was a fan of Steve Yeager.

    I left baseball, just through apathy when I went off to college and became self-absorbed in that whole process. That was in San Diego, and I stayed down there to this day. At some point I started going to games again, and really got back into the game in 1997-1998 when I was dating a Yankees fan. Remember the 1998 World Series? The Yankees swept the Padres in four. Who has two thumbs and had tickets to game 5? THIS GUY. I cried, you guys.

    Anyway, I continue to be a baseball fan, and because we don't have Fox Sports San Diego, I don't get to watch any of it on TV. My husband and I go to a lot of games at Petco, and this season I swear we've gone to at least ten, and are actually going to TWO games this weekend.

    Baseball is my one and only sport.

    Now that I have typed this out, I think it's kind of funny that both teams I've rooted for have had Steve Garvey on them. COINCIDENCE? (Yeah.)

  • the Bloody Munchkin says:

    Okay, two things.

    First off back in college my then boyfriend, now husband convinced me to take a summer roadtrip to Denver to catch a game. I had been to an Astros game back in the day (I think Nolan Ryan even pitched that game but I didn't really care. I was seven. Sue me.) but I'd never taken to any team or been really interested. I was in the middle of nowhere New Mexico back then. Sure they broadcasted Dodgers and Cubs games back then, but I never really cared. But sitting in the stands of that game cemented in me a real camaraderie that is built on the sport itself and I had no other option but to love it.

    Secondly (god forgive me) was Barry Bonds all-time home-run title chase. I had just moved to the bay area and that idea that a bay area player could become one of the greats grabbed me and shook me and wouldn't let me go. I got sunburned at a 2002 giants playoff game against the cardinals (not the world series against those accursed Angels, damn them. I still hold a grudge and it is mighty) and it was all Barry's fault)

  • Susan says:

    Growing up, we were football fans; don't think we ever watched baseball. As a young adult, though, I rode home from work with a coworker who was diehard Giants fan. All summer, we'd ride home together listening to the Giants on the radio and i got an amazing tutorial on the game. (Still nothing better than baseball on the radio.) This was in the mid-1990s, so the teams weren't anything too special but had some players worth rooting for- Matt Williams in particular.

    Since then, my love for baseball has grown and grown. Hung in there in the worst of times and defended my team no matter what (*cough*Barry Bonds). Been rewarded with 3 amazing World Series teams and I can't say there isn't a player on those tams I wouldn't want to have a beer with.

    Best thing is, my sons are now baseball fans too, the 9 year old especially. He is going to a Giants/A's game tonight with a chance to meet Vida Blue and has been waking up early all week in anticipation.

  • Kim says:

    Ohh, this thread. I am late to the party, but I dimly remember my first game: the Seattle Mariners' inaugural season, 1977, in the Kingdome. My grandpa had played single-A ball in North Dakota prior to WWII, and was overjoyed to have a new hometown team to root for; he took us on Kids' Batting Helmet Night, and me and my sis had those plastic giveaway helmets with the old trident M's logo for years. I remember nothing much about the game, but I'm sure it was dismal and that we probably left around the fifth inning.

    (Grandpa kept the faith, though, and the voice of Dave Niehaus underscores every memory I have of him. I'm still saddened that Grandpa didn't live to see the Mariners run at a few division titles; when Niehaus himself died several years ago, I stood in a receiving line at Safeco Field for two hours to give my condolences to his family and the rest of the broadcast crew, and wept like a child.)

    The Ms were a civic joke for so, so long. I feel like a bit of a bandwagon fan, to say that I truly fell in love during the miraculous 1995 season…but this thread has reminded me of the exact moment. It was during the Mariners' incredible, improbable late-season streak, September…I was at the Dome with my then-boyfriend, and Vince Coleman hit a grand slam to tie it up. Oh my god, the BEDLAM in the stands, the deranged joy. WTF, we were FIRST in the AL West? What was even HAPPENING? Coleman went around the bases practically blowing kisses, and it seems like we stood and screamed for 15 minutes, or the rest of the night. Agh, I'm all tingly and it was 20 years ago, almost to the day: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/09/23/sports/baseball-mariners-move-into-first.html

    Two decades later, my employers are perpetually on notice: should the Ms ever actually reach the Series, I have a standing request for a leave of absence.

  • Ann_Margrock says:

    My dad was in his late 20s when baseball became part of our lives. He loved baseball, and not much else in his life. He ‘had to’ marry young, and proceeded to have 6 children in 5 years. He was overworked, underpaid, and exhausted on a regular basis. I was bubbly and full of imagination, and I probably represented the nexus of his frustration: blah, blah, blah, too-young-didn't-want-to-be-tied-down fishcakes. I remember a childhood of simmering stares.

    Dad was an avid baseball fan: he watched the Mets on the SUV-sized Zenith in our living room. This was his quiet time and off-limits to curious children. Undaunted, I began my stealth assault on him by crawling into the edge of the room, sitting quietly on the floor and watching the game alongside him. As time went on I would creep ever closer until I was sitting next to his chair. Quiet, quiet, quiet, but he was not happy with me.
    It seemed, though, his attitude suddenly shifted. He began describing the game to me. Eventually, I gathered enough courage to ask questions. He surprised me by patiently answering them. He brought home a clock/radio so that I could listen to Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner call the game while I slipped off to sleep at night. (I didn't stay awake long enough in those days to hear them dip deeper and deeper into their famously drunken observations.)

    One day he rubbed the top of my head while I sat on the floor in front of him. When I looked up, he said, “That’s for luck,” and he pointed at the TV. His favorite player was up to bat, and he had the same red hair that I had.

    Over the years, Dad and I would butt heads over most topics. But baseball…it was the one thing we could sit and talk about. In the course of an afternoon at a family gathering, we could put our heads together and strategize a platoon system for a team or organize a series of trades for another.

    When Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer 10 years ago, I was worried but he didn't really falter at all. Eight months later on the last day of June he suddenly fell ill. Six days later he and I were sitting in his hospital room arguing over best choices for the upcoming All-Star game when he slipped into unconsciousness.

    Today I wear the jersey of his favorite player every time I go to Citifield.
    I get lots of questions about my jersey, but my answer is always the same:
    Rusty Staub? He was Dad’s favorite player.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Le Grand Orange! Solid choice. What a lovely story. (I miss Kiner.)

  • Duana says:

    I thought someone else would beat me to my 'unusual' story –

    You couldn't grow up in Toronto in the early 90s and not care about baseball. Back 2 Back World Series Champs! Even my sports-aren't-for-us parents paid attention and let us have the games on in the background, and I loved the way they talked.

    But it didn't transfer any great love of the sport, per se, and I believed as a teen that you had to be binary – either you liked sports and school-spirit things or angst and eyeliner and Doc Martens, so I chose the latter. I loved 'A League Of Their Own' and 'The Rookie', of course, but I thought baseball didn't fit my brand.

    But then later I started reading this site. And once I was hooked, I wasn't going to skip out on potentially awesome essays because they were about baseball. That's when I discovered there is some truly spectacular writing on baseball (and other sports too, of course. "Play Their Hearts Out" is one of my favourite books in the past five years). I read baseball books. I read baseball novels and nonfiction 'explainy' books. I read baseball profiles. I watched 'Fever Pitch' even though I knew better.

    After that, how could I not love a sport that elicited such emotion from people? That had such a unique rhythm and structure, not just back-forth-back-forth like hockey and basketball and soccer, but something that lends itself particularly to conversation and speculation and having a parrot sit on one's arm whilst running the bases. I just feel like, watching baseball, there are always stories there, and the people I know who love baseball tend to be storytellers themselves. There's something about that that's addictive, especially now that I know I'll tell them myself. "You never saw those catches by Pillar ? Let me tell you how incredible he was…"

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    …aw.