I freely admit: I love the game! LOVE it! It’s a bit strange as I did not know what baseball was until I came to the States to go to graduate school. I remember my roommates watching the World Series on TV. I tried to watch, I tried to figure it out, I tried to understand what they were getting excited about - to no avail. It was boring.
Fast forward a few years. I was in New York City and dating this guy Bill who was outraged by my innocent “Baseball?! Looks awefully boring...”
“Tell you what,” said he, “Why don’t you come to a game with me and see what you think.”
I’m a sport. I went for it.
So we got on the subway and made our way to the Bronx. I took it all in and Bill spent the game explaining to me what was going on. Inning by inning, at bat by at bat, sometimes even pitch by pitch although, I admit, this level of detail flew right over my head. Still, somehow, it came alive for me. On the next day I walked over to Barnes and Noble on 82nd and Broadway and made myself comfortable in the sports section. I left the store with a bunch of books on baseball. The first one I read was “BASEBALL’S Best THE MVPs” by Dave Masterson and Timm Boyle. You must think it weird and if you do, I see your point: Before I really grasped the game I learn the history of its stars?! You need a personal angle to fall in love and that was mine. Learning the stories, the ups and downs of people who meant nothing to me, made them real, and made the game fascinating. I remember circling the groups in a cocktail party soon after, and gravitating towards a bunch of guys debating baseball (by the way, I still do). One of them made a comment about the 1931 MVP, Hank Greenberg. “I don’t think so”, I barged in, “The 1931 MVP was Lefty Grove.” It’s amazing how easy it is to know nothing but make a big impression remembering and dropping names...
Before I knew it I was hooked. One of the people who is responsible for my deepening interest in the game was Tim McCarver. Tim McCarver and Ralph Kiner were the TV announcers of the Mets at the time and I loved listening to them. Tim especially would continually make comments that were insightful in a way that makes you watch and learn and want to watch some more. He would throw a simple comment, “Wally (Backman) is too close to second on this hitter” and before you blink the hitter places a ground ball between Wally and first base for a hit. I admit - to this day I long for this kind of announcing.
To watch the 6th game of the 1986 World Series practically in tears because we were going down? And from the jaws of defeat to the thrilling victory in a matter of seconds? To be at the 7th game of the World Series and be down 3 zip and get this amazing adrenalin charge when Sid Fernandez comes in to relieve a struggling Ron Darling and start throwing strike after strike after strike?!
The more I learned, the more I knew I didn’t know, the more I got into it. And when I moved West (it’s that Bill again, now the husband) we became Oakland A’s fans, I became a season ticket holder, and the love affair continued. How can it not?! So much fun. So much drama. So much nuance. So much unexpected. So much anicipation. So much skill. So much luck. So much snap judgement. So much solitary responsibility. So much teamwork. And so it goes. Is there ANYTHING better than a Sunday afternoon at the ballpark?! Maybe a Saturday afternoon at a ballpark and your son on the mound...